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There is news that Modi government likely to bring bill to prevent religious conversion in next Parliament session

There is currently this plea from persecution relief and a petition to be signed

How have such laws affected Christians in the world in the past? And how would they affect Christians in India?

Have such laws caused any type of unity and revival of fellowship among denominations who would not otherwise fellowship with each other in the past in world history?

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    I love the question - but you may want to edit it to focus on the historical part (how have such laws affected Christians in the past), instead of inviting speculation and opinion on how they will affect Christians now. – Matt Gutting Aug 21 '20 at 11:20
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    There are current movements afoot to silence expression of religious beliefs and opinions, and this in western democracies that claim freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. The relevance of this issue is of great concern right here and right now. Good question. – Lesley Aug 21 '20 at 11:51
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    It might be helpful to concentrate on the Indian states in which there is already legislation in force : 8 states in India already have the law in force. In 1967 it was introduced to the state of Odisha and in 1968 it was implemented in the state of Madhya Pradesh and 6 more states followed after that. [Facebook]. – Nigel J Aug 21 '20 at 12:13
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    Nigel raises a good suggestion. Asking how laws preventing conversion have affected Christians of all places would be too broad, but asking about the effects of similar laws in India in recent history should actually give good insights into what this new law could mean. – curiousdannii Aug 21 '20 at 12:27
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    In Indonesia where the majority are Moslems, Christians enjoy constitutional protection as 2 of the 6 official religions (Catholic is separate than non-Catholics). But since late 1990s the Moslem majority started to curb the spread of Christianity by various means, including blocking the construction of churches, issuing laws prohibiting conversions, or not renewing visas of missionaries. Obviously too long for a comment or even an answer here, but this article can give a taste, including mini history. – GratefulDisciple Aug 21 '20 at 18:44
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There's many a slip twixt cup and lip, so until an actual law is actually passed, we can only surmise. The history tag is useful to remind us that in every generation, sections of Christians in different parts of the world have had legislation enacted against them to stop their God-given commission to share the good news about Jesus everywhere. Many vicious tactics have been employed against the liberty of Christians to share the gospel with other. Yet there really is only one answer to your complex question, and it has little to do with what modern-day governments in India might do in the very near future.

You ask, "How would [such proposed laws] affect Christians in India?" As history shows, Christians will be scattered, blood will be spilled, and many people will be converted to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, through such adverse circumstances. As the North African Christian theologian Tertullian (circa 155-220A.D.) wrote,

"The blood of the Christians is the seed of the church" (chapter 50 of his Apology.) [See this, Henry Bettenson's correct quote, Doctrines of the Christian Church page v.]

In other words, the more the Romans persecuted and killed Christians, the more the church grew.

Government laws to try to stop Christians encouraging people to turn in faith to Christ are counterproductive. That is because conversion to Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit, not of individual or collective Christian efforts at evangelism. Non-Christian governments always misunderstand this and think that by proscribing evangelism, conversions will more or less stop. What happens is that Christians go "underground" (as in China) with antagonistic groups grasping the legislative opportunity to turn on Christians, to betray them to the authorities, or to invent lies with which to get them accused in courts. Yet people are still converted to Christ! Baptisms keep happening. The faith of the faithful keeps growing. Yes, many professed Christians may fall away, but that does not stop conversions to Christ continuing. Why? Because that is the role of the Holy Spirit. He convicts people of their sin, giving them such a burden of sin that they cry out to God in repentance, to be forgiven. When they are freely forgiven by God, they are converted and become Christians.

No laws passed by any government has ever been able to stop this. But because ungodly governments know nothing of the things of God and of the way the Holy Spirit operates, they keep trying to suppress the Church visible, thinking they are succeeding when, hidden in plain spiritual sight are increasing conversions enacted by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, Christians undergoing such duress will find spiritual encouragement and help from those they might not normally fellowship with. This is another evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, building up the body of Christ where secular powers have tried to break it down. Despite some falling away from the faith, others remain faithful to Christ. Denominational 'identities' are seen to less important than previously supposed, under dire circumstances of persecution. Which is what anti-conversion laws designed to silence Christian witness and testimony actually is. It may be couched in apparently sensitive language, to allow for 'legitimate' or 'genuine' conversions that can be shown to be un-forced, but recent history shows many non-Christians accusing Christians of trying to bribe people into conversion when they were only helping the starving to get some food or shelter. That sort of thing.

Nobody can prognosticate and give you a precise answer as to how such proposed laws might affect Christians in India, so my answer is speaking in broadly general terms, based on what has happened to Christians in different parts of the world, at different times. Jesus promised that the Church he builds will not be overcome, not even by the gates of Hades. Those individuals who make up that spiritual 'body of Christ' will stand firm and continue to point others to Christ, by word and by deed, and the Holy Spirit will continue to do his work of conversion.

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How is the new anti-conversion law going to affect Christians in India?

The real short answer is that Christian Churches will adopt to the situation as they always have.

Churches will continue to survive regardless of how legally they are mistreated in any time or place.

To give you an example, I would like to mention with happened in Japan between 1614 and 1865.

The Year of Our Lord 1614 brought a harsh reality to all Catholics living in Japan. That year the Japanese government expelled all priests and bishops from their territories.

Normally one would think that without any clergy to attend the faithful, the faith would die out. But the opposite happened!

Catholicism without priests

The government must have been just as surprised as Father Petitjean when tens of thousands of hidden Christians came out of the woodwork after that remarkable 1865 encounter in Nagasaki. These people weren’t supposed to exist, and yet here they were, telling stories of secret baptisms and Marian images made to look like Buddhist goddesses. They recited “Latin” prayers that were barely intelligible to the western priests and sang hymns modeled on Buddhist chants as another layer of camouflage.

But they had appointed men as catechists, men to baptize and serve in a pastoral role, and others to keep the calendar. They abstained from meat on Fridays, observed Lent and Easter, even attempted to celebrate feast days. As best they could, they gave their children Saints’ names. Many had resigned themselves to the need to deny their faith publicly, but they prayed acts of contrition, again and again, longing for the day when they would once again be able to receive sacramental absolution.

They knew the priests would return. They knew because the missionaries had promised, and they knew because a martyr named Bastian had prophesied in 1660 that after seven more generations, confessors would return to Japan. So they counted down the years until that fateful day in 1865 (seven generations later) when Father Petitjean received them at the church named for their ancestors.

In 1614, all Catholic missionaries were expelled from Japanese soil. Fr. B. Petitjean arrived in Nagasaki, Japan in August 1864 and was able to construct a small Church. On March 17, 1865 he discovered that the Christian faith had survived in Japan for some 250 years without any missionaries (priests) to administer the sacraments!

In Japan March 17 is liturgically celebrated as the Finding of the Japanese Christians*. Sorry, St Patrick's Day is not a big thing on this day in Japan!

What is true about Catholics adopting to harsh political situations is equally true for other Christian denominations and traditions.

In communist countries, I know of both priests and pastors who work in rice fields (or other areas), in order to administer the sacraments and teachings of the Gospel, without the governmental authorities being any the wiser.

Churches, whether Catholic or not will always adopt to the political situation in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

As for the new anti-conversion law being considered in India, it is too soon to know how to react.

Some Christian leaders will definitely go the political route and challenge the law in court.

The new anti-conversion laws may only affect forced conversions in one form or another. This would have little impact on conversions freely done. The law must be defined and take affect first. In any case, many Christians are thinking, I am sure, of how to react to this particular situation.

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  • Thank you for the answer @KenGraham – Siju George Aug 27 '20 at 2:58

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