04/16/2022 (International Christian Concern) – A congregation of 100 Christians celebrating a Maundy Thursday service in Uttar Pradesh’s Fathepur District were threatened by a radical Hindu mob who surrounded the church and subsequently locked the doors.
A First Information Report (FIR Number 0224) was lodged against 36 Christians on alleged forced conversion charges. The police filed the FIR based on Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws after the mob’s leader, Himanshu Dikshit, complained that the church was working to convert Hindus to the Christian faith.
While most of the congregation has been freed from the locked church, 36 remain in jail on forced conversion charges while the wider Christian community works to raise the bail amount. It is expected that this will be achieved by the end of the day. One of the Christians in the congregation shared how “This is a perfect portrayal of Jesus’ suffering 2000 years ago. We know Jesus endured, and we will.”
Maundy Thursday–or Holy Thursday–is a time many Christians gather to celebrate Jesus’ final Passover with his disciples, his commandment to love one another, and his service to others through the washing of feet.
“Sadly, Uttar Pradesh is one of the harshest states in India regarding religious freedom violations,” said ICC President Jeff King. “When the Indian authorities validate the actions of a violent mob by jailing the mob’s victims, they are sending a message that criminal activity is approved by the authorities whenever it targets religious minorities. This type of legal posture only worsens the religious freedom climate and further increases the vulnerability of Christians to more violence. Anti-conversion laws are inherently subjective, and perception-based, therefore completely restricting the rights of Christians to public expressions of their faith.”
A Christian leader who wished to remain anonymous told ICC, “This is the most poised week for Christians around the world, where Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are celebrated. This [persecution incident] is [a]complete intrusion, where minorities cannot freely practice their faith, even celebrate some of the very important days on the Christian calendar.”