Christians question sealing of church in Odisha

Christians in Odisha have questioned the sealing of their church and imposition of orders restraining them from gathering for worship after an allegation of religious conversion.

“Our people have been restrained from worshipping since May 17 after the administration sealed the only church in Geltua village under Bhadrak rural police station in Odisha,” Pratap Chhinchani, a practicing lawyer in Orissa High Court said to UCA news agency.

The decision to seal the Believers Church was arbitrary with no notice citing any reason served by the administration, he alleged.

Chhinchani said the arbitrary and illegal actions will be challenged in a higher court.

The officials, however, justified the action by citing a complaint by Hindutva activist that the church served as a center for religious conversion of tribal people, causing a law and order problem in the locality.

District officials said that the preliminary probe was carried out after which the church was sealed and orders were put in place to ensure that no untoward incident took place.

“The worship was held in the church for many years but nobody was converted as is being alleged,” said the lawyer.

According to the lawyer, the right-wing Hindu activists targeted Christians and even disrupted prayer services intentionally to create trouble.

“Our people lodged complaints at the local police station and even informed the district collector and superintendent of police while seeking protection, but to no avail,” he said.