While large scale visa violations by Islamic religious preachers are being noticed by the nation now, Christian evangelist/proselytising network has been repeatedly indulging in visa violations on large scale, since several decades.
- Santosh AS
“It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of use of force, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than other”
The above statement was made by the bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India comprising Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan during its verdict in Graham Staines Murder case in the year 2011.
This careful observation reveals how foreign evangelists like Graham Staines and several others are continuously indulging in unlawful religious conversions thus becoming a threat to religious harmony in the diversified country.
However, in a rare move, the Supreme Court had to expunge its ‘Objectionable’ remarks in this case due to some unavoidable circumstances created by so called civil societies and its lobby.
This is a classic example to prove that negligence and intentional inaction of our Indian Immigration System in serious and security related matters.
In order to understand this larger conspiracy of religious conversions and their motives, we need careful study and observations on foreign evangelists and how silently they break or bypass the Indian laws like white collar criminals and glorify themselves messengers of Christ and Gospel.
Brief introduction to types of visas given by India for foreign citizens:
India Government issues 18 types of visas to foreign national who wish to visit India on different purposes. One of those is Missionary visa, issued to representatives of approved organisations like ‘Missionaries of Charity’. There is no provision of “Religious Visa” for short term or freelance evangelical activities. So, they obtain tourist visa by falsifying the purpose of their visit to India as “tourist” and hide their intention of ‘proselytizing activities’ during the application process.
Let us examine some of the Vatican tutored law breakers in white robes who concealed their real motives and cheated our liberal Indian Immigration System.
Graham Staines was an Australian Christian evangelist who entered into India and settled with his family in govt prohibited zones of Odisha posing as a philanthropist. He went to break the laws for nearly 40 years with his illegal activities in the sensitive areas by defaming and disconnecting every cultural aspect of local tribal and successfully converting them into Christianity fold. He was killed in 1999 by local tribes for actively fostering religious conversions through unethical methods, misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement, threat of incurring ‘God’s Displeasure’, Social ex-communication and by other fraudulent means.
As per the reply from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to our RTI application in 2011, foreigners holding missionary visas should not work in Tribal/Agency areas in India. More over there is a law in state named ‘The Odisha Freedom of Religion Act, 1967’ which prohibits religious conversions. As on date, 11 states have enacted similar acts, the latest one being Himachal Pradesh. However, lack of proper mechanism to monitor violations of visa rules has emboldened more and more foreign Christian evangelists/proselytisers to undertake evangelist trips to India and indulge in brazen conversions, gospel preaching and distribution of Christian religious literature.
When a person is entering our territory repeatedly in the guise of Tourist and getting his/her visa renewal continuously, any conscious immigration agency should sense it immediately. But our Immigration System could not sense several such cases where evangelists were getting Tourist visas renewed continuously for more than 10 years.
Let’s go through few other examples…:
Mr. Daniel Stephen Courney, an evangelist from the United States entered into India on 'Tourist Visa' and stayed for over 10 years. He actively monitored and engaged in Christian religious conversions all across the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. To safeguard his ‘Conversion Mission’ he married a local Telugu woman from Guntur District.
Daniel Stephen Courney, an evangelist from the United States entered into India on 'Tourist Visa'
He was deported in 2017 and blacklisted by Indian immigration authorities following a continuous follow up by members of Legal Rights Protection Forum team for over 2 months with Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) of Hyderabad and the Foreigners Division, New Delhi.
His speeches are so rabid and downright insulting to other religions especially Hinduism and also criticizes Government of India.
When a person is entering our territory repeatedly in the guise of Tourist and getting his visa renewal continuously, any conscious immigration agency should sense it immediately. But in the above case of Mr. Daniel Stephen Courney our Immigration System could not even sense it even after getting his Tourist visa renewal continuously for more than 10 years.
Ms. Benita Francis is a German citizen settled in Chennai. She is married to local pastor Mr. Ezekiah Francis. This couple is continuously organizing several large scale Christian evangelical activities on behalf of Berachah Prophetic Ministries, an FCRA registered (No. 075900700) organization located at Kollathur in Chennai.
A complaint has been filed by Legal Rights Protection Forum against them with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office at Chennai and FCRA Division of Union Ministry of Home Affairs on 26th August, 2019 but the case is still ‘under investigation’.
Ms. Benita Francis, a German citizen is married to a local pastor and is invovled in largescale evengelical activities
Is it not wonder that a Foreigner who is publicly carrying out her religious activities not in the scanner of Government Agencies?
Mr Morris Cerrulo, a Christian Preacher from South Africa. He is a repeated offender of Indian laws. On 17th October, 1992, he was deported from India for Cheating people in the name of Christian Miracle Healing organized in Kolkata which is violation of Law of land.
Later, he was blacklisted by Indian Immigration authorities and declared as ‘persona-non-grata’ to Indian government. But surprisingly, he re-entered into India in 2018 and organised a huge Christian Miracle Healing event at Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi. (Ref: https://apnews.com/4db81984b9186d8823d0aade0f869b99)
Mr Morris Cerrulo, a Christian Preacher from South Africa indulges in fake healing exercises
Ms. Anne Graham Lotz, a famous US evangelist and daughter of popular tele-evangelist Billy Graham. On 5th January, 2018, she addressed the massive open-air Christian religious gathering as a principal speaker in Secunderabad, Telangana. She was invited by politicians of TRS, a state ruling party. She was in the India on 'Conference Visa'.
Ms. Anne Graham Lotz, US evangelist regularly enters India on 'Conference Visa' and indulges in Evangelical activities
Prior to the event several activists informed to Hyderabad FRRO and Police authorities about her planned schedule at religious gathering event, a contrary to her visa conditions.
In the case of Anne Graham Lotz, the authorities of Foreigners Division (MHA) deliberately concealed the RTI queries filed by an activist named Mr. Harish Sharma seeking the information regarding the action taken against Ms. Anne Graham Lotz for violating Indian visa norms. They mislead the RTI applicant by replying that they did not receive any complaint against her. Later Mr. Harish Sharma had followed the case with the for two years finally approached Chief Information Commissioner. There, the Deputy Public Information Officer of the Foreigners Division had tendered an apology for furnishing wrong information to the RTI applicant. This case exemplifies the nexus between the powerful Christian Missionary network with Indian authorities in suppressing the facts thus giving a free hand to a foreign evangelist to become wilful offender of Indian laws.
All the above cases reveal that these ‘well-educated’ and intelligent foreign evangelists reach India by claiming themselves to be un-harmful tourists or researchers/philanthropists. At the outset, it looks like these are decent enough and respect laws of the land, but in reality, it is completely opposite. There are many evangelists who undertake single mission trips to India sponsored by their church and do not visit India again. Next year a new set of evangelists enter the country with tourist visas. Most of their blogs/videos consist of highly derogatory words addressing Hindus – idol/fire/tree/monkey/cow/devil worshipping hell bound sinners etc.,
We can safely assume that these visa violators are all aware on how strict the Indian laws especially pertaining to foreigners involving in religious activities and its consequences. They research, plan, carry out their plans, monitor the results and alter the plans to make in order to cheat Indian Immigration authorities.
As the nation battles the deadly Covid-19 virus and its devastating impact on every citizen of India, it has suddenly woken up to the menace of visa violating foreign religious preachers. For the first time, a deadly virus has been spread along the length and breadth of the country by a large group of religious preachers who came on tourist visas to take part in Tabligh-E-Jamaat congregation in Delhi. The impunity with which the visa violations have taken place has shocked the nation.
How Foreigners violate Indian laws?
- Not informing their itinerary to local FRRO office, and furnishing their Indian entry and exit points, which is mandatory as per law.
- Attending religious activities, which is strictly prohibited. Not disclosing local residential address and their guardian contacts details to nearby local police stations.
-Not allowed to enter into any of the government notified Protected areas, Tribal/Agency zones, and places affected with Militancy & Extremism.
-Marrying Indians as part of strategy to obtain the (Person of Indian Origin) Cards, to carry out their Christian evangelical activities.
We strongly urge the Indian Immigration system to introspect to identify the gaps addressing this challenge that ultimately questions the sovereignty of independent India and cultural and religious ethos. The central govt's ignorance on this threat and its untrained police, security agencies in tracking these law-evading foreign evangelists touring various parts of the country, and cross verifying their details is a big challenge to fix these criminals.
It is important to note that in 2017, a lobbyist group for non-theists and a gay rights organization have approached U.S. State and Justice departments to investigate into the way Church missionaries particularly Latter-day Saints (LDS) had obtained Missionary visas to India. Ref Links:
We need to make sure that our Indian Immigration system cannot be hijacked by these big names who are trusted leaders of Church and are part of global Christian Missionary enterprise backed by strong, powerful nationals and religious lobbies who are proudly claims their sole objective is to win the world for Jesus Christ and in the process, completely wipe out native religions, cultures and civilisations.
(The author is the Working President of Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF). LRPF can be contacted at [email protected])