Assamese village church

The police in Assam on October 27 deported three Swedish nationals for violating visa norms by allegedly indulging in conversion-related activities in the northeastern Indian state.

They were also fined US$500 each before they were deported around 3 pm, Allen Brooks, spokesperson of the Assam Christian Forum, an ecumenical body, told Matters India October 27.

According to the police, the trio were on tourist visas but had allegedly indulged in missionary activities in “contravention” of visa norms during their visit to Dibrugarh district of Upper Assam.

A police officer told The Telegraph of Kolkata that they had examined the three on October 26 based on inputs and evidence. “We have sent a report to immigration through our (police) headquarters for their deportation,” he said and added that they had not a case against the three.

The Swedish team comprised two women and a man. Asked what missionary activities the three had been conducting, the officer said they were “intended at conversions,” a claim denied by the organizers of the church event they attended.

The trio reached New Delhi on October 19 and then proceeded to Namrup in Dibrugarh district on October 24 to attend a three-day Peace and Prayer Healing Festival organized by the United Churches Fellowship and the Bless Assam Mission Network in Naharkatia from October 25.

One of the organizers told The Telegraph that the program was “by, for and of the Christian people” held at a football field of a tea estate for overall peace and prayers for the well-being of the ailing and the depressed. According to the organizer, the three are husband and wife who are teachers, and a nurse.

Brooks says the interdenominational prayer and healing service was organized by the local Christians for their own community.

The three foreigners were invitees and they participated in the prayer service and spoke to the gathering.

“The program was held after obtaining all requisite permissions from the concerned authorities. The local police station too was duly informed,” Brooks explained.

The arrest on grounds of violation of visa norms can be conceded as ignorance of the organizers, he added.

However, the allegations of conversion is “a bit far-fetched as, the organizers were Christians, the participants were Christians and the three foreigners too were Christians. So if all were Christians who was trying to convert who?” he asked.

The same question was asked by one of the organizers. “Where did this conversion issue come from? We had duly informed the district administration on October 13 about the invite and also of the invite to the Swedish nationals,” the newspaper quoted the organizer, who had requested anonymity. The three Swedish national attended the opening day’s program but were reportedly picked up for examination on October 26 morning.