Prosecution Drops Charges and Allows Pastor to Return Home after Seven-Month Detention
On Tuesday, the International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported that Pastor Bryan Nerren, an American pastor detained in India since October 2019, is now free to return home to his family in the United States.
This news brings to an end a seven-month legal ordeal that began with Pastor Nerren being falsely accused of violating India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the charges against Pastor Nerren were dropped, and the prosecution withdrew its case on Friday, May 15.
The judge overseeing Pastor Nerren’s case lifted the travel ban that has kept Pastor Nerren in India since October 2019, allowing him to return to the United States and reunite with his family.
On October 5, 2019, Pastor Nerren and two other pastors from Tennessee arrived in India to attend conferences in India and Nepal. The ACLJ reported that Pastor Nerren was targeted and arrested by Indian customs agents after he told them he was a Christian.
When the three pastors arrived in New Delhi, Pastor Nerren was detained by customs agents while proceeding through the domestic security check for a flight to Bagdogra.
According to the ACLJ, Pastor Nerren was carrying funds to cover the expenses of two conferences and the two-week trip for himself and the other pastors.
Customs agents questioned Pastor Nerren about the funds and their usage for about an hour.
According to the ACLJ, customs agents specifically asked Pastor Nerren if he was a Christian and if the funds would be used to support Christian causes.
After fully explaining the usage of the funds, the customs agents told Pastor Nerren that he was free to go. However, when Pastor Nerren arrived in Bagdogra, he was arrested for violating India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act and transported to Siliguri, where he was incarcerated for six days and not allowed any visitors, including visitors from the US Consulate.
Pastor Nerren was able to secure bail after six days in jail. However, the judge overseeing his case retained Pastor Nerren’s passport and ordered a travel ban on the American pastor.
Until the charges against him were dropped last Friday, Pastor Nerren was effectively trapped in Siliguri.
Religious intolerance and instances of persecution have steadily escalated in India since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political party founded on a Hindu nationalist ideology, took power in 2014.
According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), 147 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians were documented in 2014.
In 2019, after five years of BJP rule, EFI recorded 366 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are happy to see that the false charges against Pastor Nerren dropped and that he is free to return home to his family. What is most concerning about Pastor Nerren’s case is how customs officials targeted him after he told them he is a Christian. No one should be targeted for any abuse because of their religious identity, especially in India. According to Article 25 of India’s constitution, individuals are free to profess, practice, and propagate their choice of religion. It seems that this constitutional protection was not given to Pastor Nerren. Instead, he was forced to endure seven months of detention in India because he identified himself as a Christian.”
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Persecution.org (May 2020) American Pastor Detained in India Finally Freed