September 27, 2014

Inquiry Finds India Reconversions Weren’t Forced

An investigation by the Seventh-day Adventist Church has
found that claims of forced reconversion to Hinduism in northern India last
month are untrue and that members reconverted of their own will after receiving
little support from church leadership.

Forced conversion is illegal in India, and a reconversion
ceremony on Aug. 26 in Asroi, located about 110 miles (175 kilometers) south of
India’s capital, New Delhi, raised fears in the wider Christian community that
hard-line Hindus were compelling people to switch faiths.

But the investigation, undertaken by an internal commission
and released this week, indicated that the villagers who had reconverted had
been courted by Hindu activists while receiving scant attention from the

“There seems very little attention paid to these laity since
the inception of the church in 2005,” the commission said in a report. “The
Hindu activists had been in constant touch with these people.”

Local church leaders said the church needed to do a better job of discipling
new believers, including those who ranked low in India’s caste system. Some of
the people who reconverted to Hindu told local media that part of their
motivation for becoming Adventists had been to elevate their social status.

<strong>LIFTING UP ASROI:</strong> Visiting Adventist leaders praying in the Asroi church. Credit: SUD
<strong>VILLAGE LIFE:</strong> Asroi villagers milling around the church during the check. Credit: SUD

“We have to carefully nurture the new comers and help them
to be rooted in the word,” said T. P. Kurian, communication director for the
church’s Southern Asia Division, which includes India.

“We also need to help them come out of social stigma,” he
said referring to the caste system.

The investigation dispelled misconceptions and corrected some details in media
reports about what happened on Aug. 26. Media reports said 72 Adventists
reconverted, but the Asroi church only had a maximum of 33 of members since it
was founded in 2005, and the number waned over the years, the investigation

Also, a havan, or purification by fire, ceremony was performed
on Aug. 26 inside the church building with a few of the former Adventists, it
said. The Hindu activists who staged the ceremony gained entrance to the church
through a former church member who had a key. The church has since been
relocked and remains unused. Police guarded the building for at least four days
after the incident.

The Asroi church is officially listed as inactive in Adventist Church records, the
investigation said.

Related link

Adventist Review, Aug. 31, 2014: "Adventists Seek Inquiry After Indians Reconvert to Hinduism"