Internal commission report dispels claim of forced reconversions in India

Adventist Church’s report details facts, misconceptions about case in Asroi

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | ANN staff

A newly released report by a Seventh-day Adventist Church internal commission said claims of forced reconversion to Hinduism in northern India last month are untrue and that members reconverted of their own will because of little support from leadership.

The report states: “There seems very little attention paid to these laity since the inception of the church in 2005,” and “the Hindu activists had been in constant touch with these people.” The church is located in Asroi in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Church leaders at the division said better discipling of new members could lessen the likelihood of a similar incident taking place.

T. P. Kurian, the division Communication director said, “We have to carefully nurture the new comers and help them to be rooted in the word. We also need to help them come out of social stigma also,” he said referring to the caste system.

Several news agencies previously reported on the incident, but the new report, produced by a commission from the Adventist Church’s Southern Asia Division and made available this week, dispelled misconceptions and corrected some details of the news articles, including the number of people involved.

The Adventist Review previously reported the case—one of declining membership over the years among members who felt they were unable to shake their caste system by belonging to a Christian denomination.

Media reports stated 72 former Adventists reconverted, but the church has only had a maximum number 33 of members since it was founded in 2005, the report stated. Membership has declined over the years, Church leaders said.

Still, a havan [purification by fire] ceremony performed on August 26 inside the church building with a few of the initially baptized members had raised fears in the Christian community that hardline Hindus were compelling people to switch faiths.

“This is not an issue about leaving the faith, but about maintaining the sanctity of a place of worship,” Osmond Charles, a local lawyer, told the Times of India.

It was later discovered, the report stated, that entrance to the church was gained by one of the church members having a key. The church has since been relocked and remains unused. Police guarded the building for at least four days after the incident, the report stated.

The church is listed in the Adventist Region Director’s churches’ list as an inactive church, the report said.