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American pastor arrested and detained in India

According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Pastor Bryan Nerren and two other pastors from the state of Tennessee arrived in India on 5th October to attend two conferences in India and Nepal.

The ACLJ reported that Pastor Nerren was then targeted and arrested by Indian customs agents after he told them he was a Christian.

ICC's regional manager, William Stark said: "We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the arrest and detention of Pastor Nerren. We are most concerned by reports that Pastor Nerren was targeted by Indian customs officials after he told them he is a Christian.

Pastor Nerren was detained by customs agents whilst going through security for a flight to Bagdogra. The pastor was carrying funds to cover the expenses for the two conferences as well as the two-week trip for himself and the other pastors.

Customs agents questioned him about the funds and their usage for about an hour. According to reports, Nerren has been traveling to India and Nepal for the past 17 years to train people to become Sunday school teachers.

Customs agents specifically asked him if he was a Christian and if the funds would be used to support Christian causes. After explaining what the money was for, customs agents told Pastor Nerren he was free to go.

However, when Nerren arrived in Bagdogra, he was arrested and transported to Siliguri where he was jailed for six days and denied any visitors, including those from the US Consulate.

Stark said: "Article 25 of India's own constitution protects religious freedom for all of the country's citizens. In addition, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also protects religious freedom. However, it seems these protections are being denied to Pastor Nerren due to his identity as a Christian."

Nerren was granted bail after six days in prison, but the judge has retained his passport and ordered a travel ban. A court date to hear the pastor's case has been set for 12th December.

Religious persecution have escalated in India since the Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014.

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, 147 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians were documented in 2014. In 2018, after four years of BJP rule, EFI documented 325 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians.

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