India arrests 10 men for taking Christian children to Bible camp

(Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold placards during a protest outside a church in New Delhi February 5, 2015.

Government authorities in India have detained as many as 10 Christians earlier this month for allegedly kidnapping and attempting to convert dozens of children, who came from Christian families.

On May 21, the police arrested nine men while they were transporting 60 children, aged between 13 and 15, to a Christian summer camp in Nagpur. The men were charged with "attempted conversion" even though the children were from Christian families.

On May 22, two men were arrested on similar charges when they tried to bring 11 children, aged between 11 and 17, to the same camp. One of the men was also involved in the previous incident, according to New Indian Express.

"The camp was organised by Jeevan Raksha, a Gujarat-based organisation. We sent our team to Nagpur to find out whether the children were being taken to a summer camp there. But our team found out that there was no summer camp, but a special Bible prayer camp from May 22 to May 25," said Krishnaveni Desavatu, the police superintendent.

The first group of children was reportedly sent to shelter homes in Ratlam and Jaora. The second group, who reportedly belong to Hindu tribals from Ambua area of Alirajpur district, is under the custody of Child Line in Indore.

The parents of the children said that they were being taken to the summer camp with their consent and there was no question of any religious conversion because they are already Christians. However, the authorities insisted that the children are still considered Hindus under the law because their parents did not follow the proper procedures of changing their official religion to Christianity.

"For changing to another religion, one needs to submit a written application to the district collector and only after the stipulated process, a person can change religious identity, which didn't happen in the case of any of the parents claiming to be Christians," said Desavatu.

"This is why, the children and their parents will be officially treated as Hindu tribals and not Christians," he added.

Desavatu said that the Bible camp's caretaker, Vincent Patil, has been questioned by the police about the attempt to convert the tribal children.

According to Crux, the Catholic Church strictly adheres to the country's conversion laws. However, poor and lower-caste Indians who convert to other denominations often encounter obstacles when they try to follow the said laws.

Christians in India have often suffered various forms of intimidation and harassment, driven by accusations from Hindu nationalists that questionable tactics were being used to convert Hindus.

India has been ranked in the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List as the 15th worst country in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians.

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