Blind pastor, Balu Saste, his wife and ten other Christians were found innocent of charges of making “forced conversions” brought against them under India’s anti-conversion laws by a court in Madhya Pradesh, India, on 6 May.
The case dates back to January 2016, when a large mob of extremists from local villages stormed a church building in a village in Madhya Pradesh state, beating and harassing worshippers. The mob then threatened to burn down the building with the Christians locked inside.
Police intervened and arrested Pastor Balu, his wife, who is also blind, their two-year-old son and five men and five women from their congregation. The pastor and his wife were stripped, beaten and detained in jail, along with their son, for eight days before being released on bail. The police charged all those arrested with contravening anti-conversion penal codes.
It is reported that the ten others were also acquitted of similar charges by the court. The details of these cases are not known at the time of writing.
Pastor Balu had been previously imprisoned on similar charges in 2012.
The ADF advocacy group, who represented the pastor, welcomed the court’s decision to quash the convictions made in March this year. It said, “The landmark ruling marks an important victory against India’s anti-conversion laws, which increasingly threaten the fundamental rights of religious minorities.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The acquittal of Pastor Balu and his family is a vital step towards the protection of religious freedom and the right to freely live out one’s faith.”
The couple, now recovering at home with their son, remain anxious and distressed after their ordeal and are keeping out of sight to avoid further hostility. They have also been banned from ministry activities, according to a Barnabas Fund contact.
From Barnabas Fund contacts and other sources