Indian Police Arrest Carol Singers for Attempted Conversion

December 18, 2017 Updated: December 18, 2017

A group of Christmas carol-singing Catholic priests and seminarians were arrested over allegations they were trying to convert people in a state in central India.

Before their arrest, they were also allegedly attacked by the hard-line Hindu group known as Bajrang Dal, reported The Times.

Another group of priests, who came to the aid of those arrested for singing the carols, were also detained by police. The incident occurred last Thursday in a village in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

At least one vehicle owned by the priests who came to assist their colleagues was torched during the incident, reported NDTV.

Media reports on the incident have been inconsistent on how many people were arrested, but among them was a professor at a Catholic theological college, reported the BBC.

According to The Times, a villager told police that a priest offered him cash, a cross, and a Bible if he would get baptized.

The Hindu reported that the complaint was made by a 21-year-old man.

After being questioned by police the carol singers were released.

The state has strict anti-conversion laws, a result of the state’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  If someone is to convert from one religion to another, they have to formally notify the authorities in advance.

The head body of the Catholic Church in India has complained about the incident.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said the priests’ singing program has been carried out each Christmas season for the last 30 years, reported The Hindu.

The police told the paper that no one has yet to be charged over the conversion charge as investigations are ongoing, but they have arrested an 18-year-old man for torching the priests’ vehicle.

There has been a surge of reports about mistreatment of religious minorities in the state and elsewhere in India ever since the BJP at state and federal levels have come to power.

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