Two and a half years after they were arrested, an Indian court has acquitted eight Christians accused of kidnapping and forced conversion of 60 children, reports the Catholic news site UCAN.
Their case was dismissed 18 February by the criminal court in Ratlam in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
The two men and six women were arrested on 21 May, 2017, while they were on their way with the children from tribal backgrounds to a ‘Bible camp’ at a summer centre in the city of Nagpur, in neighbouring Maharashtra state.
Despite the fact the parents had given consent for their children to attend the camp, the groups’ leaders were detained and charged with illegal religious conversion of the children, under Madhya Pradesh’s Freedom of Religion Act.
The law, commonly known as an ‘anti-conversion law’, requires a person to obtain government permission before changing religion. Madhya Pradesh is one of the eight Indian states that has adopted such a law.
“Justice has finally been done,” Tehmina Arora, director of the legal team of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in India who supported the Christians through their trial, told UCAN.
“But we must not forget the toll that such false cases take on families,” Arora said. “No one should be targeted for their faith. The anti-conversion laws are tools to harass and target Christians and should be repealed since they restrict the freedom of religion guaranteed under the constitution of India.”
Two Christian men who were arrested at the same time in connection with similar charges in a separate incident are still awaiting the outcome of their court case.