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Indian State Aims to Criminalize 'Praying for the Sick'

Milton Quintanilla | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Mar 14, 2024
Indian State Aims to Criminalize 'Praying for the Sick'

Indian State Aims to Criminalize 'Praying for the Sick'

State lawmakers in Assam, India are desiring to penalize Christians who pray or do any “non-scientific” practices to comfort people who are sick.

According to Christianity Today, the northeastern state of Assam introduced the bill, titled the Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024 last month, which Christian leaders argued unfairly targets local believers who pray for the sick.

“No person shall take any part in healing practices and magical healing propagation for treatment of any diseases, any disorder or any condition relating to the health of a person (relating to human body) directly or indirectly giving a false impression of treatment to cure diseases, pain or trouble to the human health,” the proposed ban, which passed the state assembly on Feb. 26, states.

Those violating the order for the first time can face one-to-three years in prison, a fine of 50,000 rupees (about $600), or both. However, a subsequent conviction may lead up to five years’ in prison and/or a fine of 100,000 rupees (about $1,200).

The bill still awaits ratification by the President of India for it to become a law. Although assembly leaders in Assam say that the ban is not meant to target any particular religion, they mean to restrict evangelism and conversion.

“We want to curb evangelism in Assam, so in that direction, the banning of healing… will be a very, very important milestone,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the national ruling party of Prime Minister Narendra Mod, currently governs the state.

“Healing is a very, very dicey subject, which is used to convert tribal people,” said Sarma. “We are going to pilot [this bill], because we believe that religious status quo is very important. Whoever is Muslim, let them be Muslims; whoever is Christian, let them be Christians; whoever is Hindu, let them be Hindus, so there can be a proper balance in our state.”

Leaders of the Christian community have spoken out against the bill. The Assam Christian Forum (ACF), an organization comprising of all Christian churches in Assam argued that the ban violates religious freedom and opposed the lawmakers characterization as “magical healing.”

“Prayer is a universal practice across religions, used to invoke divine healing,” the forum stated. “Labeling it as magical healing oversimplifies the profound spiritual dimensions of faith and life.”

The ACF also clarified the misconception held by Hindu nationalists that prayer for healing is a means of compassion rather than conversion.

Meanwhile, the Chakhesang Baptist Church Council in the neighboring state of Nagaland denounced the bill for banning Christian practices in a secular country. The council also commended their state for protecting religious liberty.

 C. Cho-o, the council’s executive secretary, refuted the term “magic healing” as dismissive of divine intervention.

“Healing is the work of God, not the work of Christians,” he said. “So, when divine healing takes place, Christians cannot claim responsibility, nor can they be blamed for it!”


Image credit: ©Getty Images/FilmColoratStudio

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.

Indian State Aims to Criminalize 'Praying for the Sick'