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Indian aid worker freed on bail amid ongoing persecution

JAIPUR, India (BP)–Samuel Thomas, president of Emmanuel Mission International, an indigenous evangelical organization in India, was able to return to ministry work after being released on bail for the second time Aug. 7 despite ongoing charges of “exciting … disaffection towards the government.”

“Glory to God!” Thomas said upon his release, according to Bill Bray of the Georgia-based Hopegivers International, which funds Emmanuel Mission International. “That’s all I can say. Amen! All glory to God!”

In February, officials from the Rajasthan state’s Kota district revoked EMI’s registration and froze their bank accounts in order to halt the work the Christians were doing to help children and the poor through orphanages, schools, a hospital and other institutions in Rajasthan. They also arrested Thomas and kept him in jail for 48 days before releasing him on bail in May.

Shortly after his release, government officials brought additional charges against Thomas and re-arrested him.

But in a two-day process Aug. 7 and 8, the High Court in Jaipur, India, revoked the series of injunctions that had kept EMI from operating and released Thomas on bail again.

“What was really crucial is he is able to go back to Kota to help get everything back up and running properly,” Michael Glenn, chief operating officer of Hopegivers, told Baptist Press.

Thomas and his father, Archbishop M.A. Thomas, founder of EMI, have a history as targets of the Kota administration, including charges leveled against them stemming from a map of India shown on the Hopegivers website that excluded Jammu and Kashmir states.

The Indian Penal Code outlaws “bringing or attempting to bring into hatred or contempt, or exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.” The law is typically invoked when spoken or published words criticize any government establishment with intent to create public disorder or disturbance of law and order, according to a report by Compass Direct. An offense under the law can lead to imprisonment for life.

M.A. Thomas went into hiding after authorities issued an arrest warrant for him in a Hindu extremist-backed attack on EMI related to the ministry’s publishing of a book called “Haqeeqat,” which Indian officials say denigrates Hindu gods, Compass Direct said.

Another complaint against EMI workers was for “illegally confining” children at the EMI orphanage, a charge that led the Register of Societies in India to revoke the registration of EMI institutions — which also include a Bible institute and a church — claiming they had violated procedures required by law.

“The charges remain and our attorneys are still working on those issues, but now we’re at least granted bail and we’re able to keep our operations proceeding,” Glenn said.

“… This is a long process, and as many people have seen in the news, there are a lot of issues going on in India right now with the anti-conversion laws being passed in a few of the states,” he added. “There has been persecution of other Christian brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the country, so of course we are concerned with lifting up in prayer all of the others that have been attacked.”

Despite the persecution, Glenn said Hopegivers and EMI remain steadfast in their commitment to providing humanitarian and educational aid for more than 10,000 children.

“We know that we are doing this for the right reasons, for the right cause,” Glenn said. “It’s a challenge, and we understand God is taking us through a process, but I believe it’s preparing us for even a greater work and impact in the future.”

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