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Christian pair in India forced to 'reconvert' flee their town

by Hannah Tooley

The international Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors says Neeraj and Ritu - which are not their real names - were intimidated by Hindu radicals in 2015.

The pair have endured months of persecution from thier community and Neeraj was beated by religious leaders in his village.

He was also hit by his own father.

He said: "They put me under pressure to renounce my faith in Christ, but I refused."

Population: 1.3 billion, 63 million Christians
Main Religion: Hinduism
World Watch List Rank: 17
Source of Persecution: Religious nationalism

Last December, Neeraj and two Christian friends were ambushed when they were making Christmas plans.

The group were abused for four hours and locked in a community hall.

They were threatened with knives and told: "If you deny your faith in Jesus, you can go home."

However, Neeraj refused to renounce his faith and the group was then taken to the police station and accused of forcing the Hindus to convert to Christianity.

There are anti-conversion laws in force in the state where Neeraj lives.

A mob gathered and called for their deaths and they were also threatened by the authorities, according to Open Doors.

They were beaten and eventually said they would agree to give up their faith.

"I was so afraid that I decided to obey them," said Neeraj.

Open Doors

He was sent to the local community meeting place and forced to recite Hindu scriptures and was covered in cow dung and urine.

A group took photos of the men to prove they had become Hindu.

He and his wife, Ritu, left their home that evening with only the clothes they were wearing.

Once they were discovered missing, the pair were threatened with death.

Neeraj and Ritu now live with Neeraj's Christian uncle in another town.

"I asked him if we could stay because I did not want to betray Jesus again and I cannot go back to my village," Neeraj said.

The Indian government is led by the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the government is proposing a national anti-conversion law.

These laws are already in place in five of India's states and there have been accusations the legislation is being used disproportionately against minorities, like Christians.

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