A Christian man in India has been threatened by authorities to stop with any Christian congregational activity, Morning Star News writes. For 12 years, Mahendra Nagdeve had met with friends and relatives in his house in Madhya Pradesh state, India to worship Christ, until this month when he was reprimanded by city officials.
“With effect from the moment you receive this notice, you must not conduct any Christian congregational activity. If you continue any Christian activities despite receiving the notice, stringent action will be taken against you.” the notice read.
According to the Morning Star News, no official from the Nagar Palika Balaghat municipality had visited to give the 45-year-old father of three any indication that Christian activities in his home in the Lanji area of Balaghat District were problematic, he said. The activities included Bible study with other families and his wife’s Christian women’s group.
“No officials visited my house to check if it is a house or church. I have been paying house tax, electricity and water bills promptly. Unless for the purpose of issuing the bills and collecting any payments, the municipal employees had never contacted me, they never had an objection.” Nadgeve told Morning Star News.
He and his family attend a local church, but the former Hindu said that when he gave up idol worship 13 years ago, he also began worshipping Jesus Christ in his home with his family and other relatives.
“I immediately submitted a response to the municipal officials stating it is my own house where I live with my family, and I had been praying peacefully in this house for 13 years now. Even my friends and relatives join us and we pray together.” he said. However, the chief officer of the Balaghat municipal council, Chandra Kisore Bawre, told Morning Star News that “neighbors” had complained.
“The problem is when people apply for permission to construct a building, they don’t disclose the purpose, and we grant permission to only construct a house to live in it, but when the neighbors come to us with complaints, we must take action,” Bawre said.
Asked whether a family cannot pray together in their own home, Bawre said people in India are free to practice any religion. He acknowledged outside pressure to issue the notice. “It was under the pressure by some people. I issued the notice, but I did not take any action as yet. I will look into the matter soon.” he added.
The Morning Star News adds that Nagdeve did reach the municipal director, Mira Samrithey, telling her that his house was not subject to church building regulations/permits, and that his family studies the Bible and prays together in their home as anyone else does.
However, Nagdeve said the municipal director told him that “the orders came from the senior officials.” Nagdeve’s attorney said his team will take court action if necessary, but that thus far they have only asked for a legal basis for stopping people from praying in their house.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say. India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution, The Morning Star News writes.