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Police in eastern India arrested a priest and catechist on Friday, accusing them of “forceful conversion” and the illegal occupation of land.

Father Benoy John and Munna Hansda work at Rajdaha mission in the Diocese of Bhagalpur in Bihar state. They were arrested in Agiamur, in the neighboring Jharkhand state, but within the boundaries of the diocese. Another priest, Father Arun Vincent, accompanied the two men in custody, but he wasn’t formally arrested and was later free to leave.

The police were acting on a complaint from a villager who accused the priests of exercising constant pressure for the locals to convert to the Christian faith.

 “The current dispensation in Jharkhand is very hostile to Christian missionaries, and our services are selectively targeted and harassed,” said Father Alphonse Francis, the former Vicar General of the Diocese of Bhagalpur.

He told Crux  the current allegations are “baseless and fabricated.”

Christians have been facing increased harassment in the state of Jharkhand since two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, were arrested last year after being accused of trying to sell a baby from a shelter for unwed mothers.

 The alleged child-selling has drawn criticism from Hindu nationalists of the charitable work done by Christian groups in the country, which they say is done for the purpose of proselytism.

 

Read more at Crux. 

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