At least one Christian priest was arrested in Madhya Pradesh, India, on Friday, after he was caught engaged in a slew of supposedly “sinister” activities including…handing out copies of the Bible, sharing photos of Jesus and singing carols.
These activities were reportedly deemed too inflammatory after a Hindu group accused the priest and members of a local seminary of improper proselytizing, Reuters reported.
And it seems there are dueling stories when it comes to the exact details of what actually unfolded. In addition to the priest’s arrest, a number of people from the seminary were also questioned. Opponents believe that they have a solid case.
“Our members have registered a criminal case because we have proof to show how Christian priests were forcibly converting poor Hindus,” Abhay Kumar Dhar, a member of the Bajrang Dal political group, said.
An official named Rajesh Hingankar did confirm that the priest was arrested, but said that the accused has not been booked under the state’s anti-conversion law, as the incident is still being investigated.
Such anti-conversion laws “seek to prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person through ‘forcible’ or ‘fraudulent’ means, or by ‘allurement’ or ‘inducement,'” according to the Library of Congress.
But while critics claim the priest and others were engaged in forcible conversion, one person affiliated with St. Ephrem’s Theological College has a starkly different story.
“We were only singing carols, but the hardline Hindus attacked us and said we were on a mission to make India a Christian nation,” Father Anish Emmanuel told Reuters. “That’s not true.”
Another priest named Father George Mangalappally corroborated that the group was merely singing when a crowd began to wage accusations of proselytizing, Crux reported.
“One of them called police and demanded action against us,” he said.
Other reports claim that two priests were arrested on Dec. 14, and that eight other priests were beaten and their vehicle was burned by Hindu radicals. Emmanuel also said that he and others who went to the police station to offer support to those arrested were beaten in front of the cops, who did nothing.