Christians in Northern India alarmed at 'forced conversions'

(Photo: REUTERS / Adnan Abidi)A woman poses for a picture before taking part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014.

Christian leaders in a northern India state have accused Hindus of forcing people to convert to their faith after local media reports that more than 70 members of Seventh-Day Adventists accepted Hinduism.

A number of Christian community leaders suspected the conversions had been carried out by the pro-Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghthe, UCA News reported.

Christian leaders asked the state government of Uttar Pradesh in northern India to take action as forced conversion is banned in the country.

"It is the right of an individual to convert to a religion of his choice but such mass conversions imply political, social and physical coercion and threat of violence," said John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council.

Last week, media reported that some 72 Christians living in Aligarh district converted to Hinduism. The people were originally Hindus by birth, but they converted becoming Seventh-Day Adventist in the 1990s.

Learning about the mass conversion, Habil Gyan, the pastor at the Seventh-Day Adventist congregation in Asroi, closed the church out of fear that Hindus, particularly hardliners, might attempt to take control of the structure.

Gyan said his alarm was triggered when he a few Hindus holding a prayer ceremony outside their building shortly after the conversion of the believers.

"The church is still in our possession. We have locked it," said Pastor E Lakra, another Seventh Day Adventist leader.

He likewise denied rumors that the church had been seized and that the cross had been removed and the structure turned into a temple.

Representatives of the RSS categorically denied having a hand in the conversions. They said the Christians converted on their own volition, refuting insinuations they influenced the people to convert back to Hinduism.

"We welcome them. They left by choice and now they have realized their mistake and want to come back," said Khem Chandra, an RSS member in Aligarh.

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News