Twelve people have been accused of converting to Christianity, arrested and put in jail in India, according to UCA news.
CHR Comment: Hindu activists surrounded a house in Dahar village, Madhya Pradesh, India. Inside were twelve persons suspected of converting to Christianity. In this region of India, it is illegal to convert without informing the government, which is run by conservative Hindus. Local police arrested the twelve people and took them to jail on January 14, 2016. They were later released on paying bail.
Shankar Singh, who spoke for those arrested, explained that they had not converted to Christianity and had gathered to observe a Hindu harvest festival that coincides with the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makarsankrati). However, he added that the group had faith in Jesus, followed His teachings, and prayed to Him even though they had not joined any Christian church.
In regions where Christianity is new and in the minority, the issue of what makes for a genuine conversion is common. Augustine records an example of this same issue in his Confessions by relating the story of Victorinus, a famous Roman teacher of rhetoric who read Christian books. Victorinus confessed to his friend Simplicianus that he had become a Christian. But Simplicianus contended that he would not agree that Victorinus was a Christian until he saw him at church, to which Victorinus cleverly replied, “Then do walls make Christians?” (Confessions: A New Translation by Henry Chadwick [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992], 136). Victorinus was afraid to make a public confession of Christ due to the social pressures of the pagan society that surrounded him and celebrated his talents. A public conversion would bring down upon him the scorn of the dominant religious culture.
The followers of Jesus in Dahar village are having a similar experience. They have learned about Jesus and want to follow Him but know that formally converting to Christianity will have great personal costs. May the Lord help them and other Christians in the region work through these matters of conversion safely and sincerely. In closing, we may remember that Victorinus finally asked Simplicianus to take him to church where he received formal instruction in the Christian faith and Baptism.