But now, another threat is rising: there’s talk of a nationwide anti-conversion law.
“There is definitely a move in the government to make India a Hindu nation,” says Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton.
“We need to be aware of that; we need to be watching that.”
If put into law, such a ban would make it illegal for Indians to follow any religion except Hinduism.
“Ostensibly, it’s to protect the minorities: to protect the Christians, to protect the Muslims,” notes Nettleton.
BJP officials claim “re-conversion ceremonies” wouldn’t have happened at all if a nationwide anti-conversion law was in place.
“Well, the reality is: anti-conversion laws–in the states where they exist–are primarily used against Christians as a way of stopping the Gospel work, stopping mission activity.”
India’s current anti-conversion legislation
Five of India’s 29 states currently have laws in place forbidding religious conversions: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh.
“A national anti-conversion law would really be a step back for religious freedom in India,” Nettleton states.
“Right now, this is talk at the government level of a national anti-conversion law. But it’s talk from the party that controls the Parliament there.
“So, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that they could get this kind of legislation through the process, because they have a majority.”
Over the past year, India has moved up seven spots on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, due to its persecution of Christians. Ranked #28 on the 2014 list, 2015 finds India at #21.
Another move to restrict religious freedom, such as passing a nationwide anti-conversion bill, would likely move India further up on the World Watch List.
“There may come a point where we need to make our U.S. officials aware of what’s going on, and encourage them to be a voice and to take a stand for religious freedom in India,” says Nettleton.
“There are radical Hindu leaders in India who say, ‘Listen, India is a Hindu country. Indians are supposed to be Hindus; therefore, we’re going to have these people come back to Hinduism,'” Nettleton adds, referring to last month’s “re-conversion” push.
What you can do about anti-conversion laws
Along with advocacy, Nettleton lists two ways you can help the Body of Christ in India. First and foremost, pray.
“Please pray for our brothers and sisters there,” Nettleton requests. “Pray for encouragement and faithfulness, and that God will be with them through this time.”
“There are many ways that Voice of the Martyrs is involved with the Indian Church,” says Nettleton, “from distributing, literally, tens of thousands of Bibles across India, to providing training for pastors and church planters.”