Are the Doors Closing in India?

There are several nations and societies in the world where public Christian witness is prohibited under law, and conversion from one religion to another is considered a legal offense leading to imprisonment and heavy punishment. For a Muslim to publicly accept another religion is almost an impossibility in several Islamic countries.

An encouraging aspect of the work of world evangelization today is that India, with a population greater than the combined population of all of Latin America and of Africa, is still wide open for Christian witness. Yet, there are strong forces at work in certain parts of India to drastically curb the work of Christian missions by making official laws that will restrict the activities of “proselytization.”

Two Indian states, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, in 1967 and 1968 passed laws relating to conversion: “No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet such conversion.” In both states the wording of the law is identical, except that in one law the word “inducement” is substituted for “allurement.” Very recently a third state, Arunachal Pradesh, in sensitive northeast India, passed a bill that is essentially the same as the others. It is now awaiting the signature of the president of India. The only significant modification in this third case is the substitution of “from one religious faith to another” by “from indigenous faiths” and an enumeration of the specific indigenous faiths of the state.

Two serious questions are being raised by these laws, which have been debated widely and contested in judicial ...

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