Pastor building community hall threatened twice then accused of blasphemy by Hindu zealots in India

An Indian Pastor who converted from Hinduism 5 years ago, seeking to build a community hall in Kaithal District, Haryana that would also serve to provide
Sunday Church services, has received serious threats and blasphemy allegations from the local Hindu Community.  Mobs in their thousands twice
disrupted and delayed building work despite the Pastor having planning permission and local court approval.

In April 2019 Pastor Sunil (28 yrs) an affiliate of Ezra Academy Ministries bought a plot of land from his Hindu Neighbour in the village of Karsa
by saving money from his small business of selling straw. After a few months after gaining planning permission he initiated the construction of a hall
so that he can run local projects for Christians and hold Sunday worship services.

On 5th June 2019 building work for the community hall began, hover a Hindu neighbour named Pawan (32 yrs) complained to a local Police station stating
that Pastor Sunil was constructing a church and asserting this was causing offence to local Hindus.  On 6th June Police stopped the construction
work and met with Pastor Sunil.

During an interview with local Police Pastor Sunil produced verified planning documents and demanded that they allow him to proceed with the construction,
which was his right.  At this point police complied with his wishes and allowed the building work to resume.

However the next day Pawan who it is believed wants to buy the same land, gathered many villagers and surrounded the construction work stating that
they would not let a church be built because it would desecrate local land.  The Hindu man was declaring that it was Pastor Sunil’s intention
to convert the  whole of the village to Christianity in an attempt to foment hatred towards Pastor Sunil. The amassed villagers threatened Pastor
Sunil with death if he continued to build his hall. Police were called to stop the civil disobedience and on arrival question were raised by the mob
over the exact planning permission and ownership of the land.

At the behest of the Mob local police informed Pastor Sunil that he was required to terminate construction work until he had shown full Title
Deeds and planning details and drawings at the local police station.    

On 15th June Pastor Sunil attended Butana Village Police Station and submitted all relevant land ownership
and  planning documents related to the construction of the hall.  On receipt of the documents the local police allowed him to continue working
on the land, to build the hall.

Local villagers, were again incensed by the decision in favour of the now beleaguered Pastor. Once again under the leadership of Pavan a large mob
of in excess of 300 people gathered around the construction site and refused to let Pastor Sunil resume building work.   

Police were called and this time Pawan filed a flase case against Pastor Sunil stating that Pastor Sunil was offering to ensure Pawan who has five
daughters that his next child would be a boy if he attended church.  A bizarre allegation as Pastor Sunil has six daughters and one son. 
He also accused Pastor Sunil of distributing the bible and other Christian books and for offering a fiscal payment on his conversion.

Pastor Sunil was arrested on 22nd June and a First Incident Report (FIR) was registered at Butana Village Police station under the blasphemy laws of
India section 295a and 298 of the Indian Penal code [This seems to be used by local police in absence of Anti-conversion laws which Haryana State has
not adopted].  View the two legislation in red footnotes at end of post.

Even worse, in interviews with local media Pawan has repeated his false allegations which have resulted in significant angst towards Pastor Sunil. 
Already he has found that his business is reducing as local Hindus are refusing to buy straw from him because of the building of a hall and the blasphemy
charges he is facing. Spending his own money on solicitors and bail fines he was able to secure anticipatory bail.  Though initially in hiding
Pastor Sunil and his family returned home so they could try to restore normal order.

Pastor Sunil asking for prayers as his next court date will be on 18th August and he is fearful that community tensions that have increased as a consequence
of unfriendly media articles, will sway a decision against him.  

Our local officer met with Pastor Sunil last week and has been counselling his family and providing moral support. Pastor Sunil, said:

“In our local community I am viewed as a pariah as I converted out of the Hindu faith after experiencing a miracle healing of my father from Tetanus after a Pastor prayed for him.

“Soon after I began reading the bible and learned about God’s love for me and the redemption that was mine to take.

“I committed my life to God and began to serve him by sharing the Gospel to bring hope and joy to the lives of others.

“I have not blasphemed and the hatred I have received is unfair – I pray for swift justice and the removal of these false charges.

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee of the British Asian Christian Association, said:

“The use of blasphemy laws without evidence of a blasphemy is a blight on India’s reputation.

“Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime the persecution of Christians and other minorities in India is palpably worse.

“Already the nation has risen to 10th on the Open Doors World Watch List and may rise further still.

She added:

“Pastor Sunil must be acquitted of the ridiculous charges and allowed to complete his building works which already have planning consent.

“Moreover in the interests of justice Pavan and members of the mob who have fomented hatred towards Pastor Sunil and falsely alleged a blasphemy, must
be prosecuted for hate crimes.

To assist Pastor Sunil we need to raise £500 for the cost of a solicitor and any further help with their damaged finances since business has been reduced.  If you would like to help Pastor Sunil please donate by clicking (here)

IPC 298: Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code

Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings

Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person
or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description
for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Section 295A in The Indian Penal Code

[295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs.—Whoever,
with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 273 [citizens of India], 274 [by
words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious
beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4 [four years], or with fine, or with