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Indian Christians forced to convert to Hinduism and pay heavy fines for attending Easter service

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. Picture taken August 29, 2014.

Christians in a tribal village in India have reportedly been ordered to pay heavy fines for attending Easter service last month and forced to convert back to Hinduism.

The authorities in the Junwani village of Chhattisgarh have reportedly prohibited Christians from attending service on Easter Sunday and imposed a penalty of $312, which is almost four to five months' worth of wages, for each person who was caught going to church to celebrate Christ's resurrection.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the village elders have also forced 15 Christian families to "reconvert" to Hinduism and imposed tough restrictions on those who refused.

Somari Komra, a 40-year-old Christian who was fined for attending Easter service, said that he and three others were intimidated and forced to stand in the middle of a village meeting on the day after Easter Sunday.

He said he knew that they would be questioned by the village elders because they saw five men who were sent to the church to spy and testify against them.

While he was being questioned, Komra told the elders that he started going to church because Jesus alleviated his physical problems.

"I was suffering with physical illness and mental disorder but none of you came and helped me," he said.

"Neither the village leaders nor the society helped. But Jesus made me well as I trusted in Him and started going to church. I will not stop going to church and I am ready to pay the fine and face the consequences of social boycott. If you stop me [from going to] church, then you must take the responsibility of my health," he went on to say.

Shivaram Tekam, a member of one of 15 families that went through the reconversion ceremony, said that he had to give a pair of chickens, a bottle of wine and 551 rupees as sacrifice to the village deity.

Despite attending the reconversion ceremony, Tekam told a local pastor that he will keep following Jesus Christ in his heart.

"They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church," he told the pastor.

Kanesh Singh, another Christian from Junwani, refused to renounce his faith in Jesus and insisted that he will not pay the fine. "If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day," he reportedly told the elders.

A local pastor who spoke on the condition of anonymity has expressed concern that Christians in the village will continue to face dangerous situations because of their decision to follow Christ. He noted that the police do not pay attention to their grievances, but some are courageous enough to declare their faith in Jesus despite the consequences.

The All India Christian Council has recently released a report, indicating that there has been a 20 percent increase in attacks against Christians in 2016. The council has recorded 108 violent incidents targeting Christians in India in the first six months of 2016.

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