American tourists on ‘conversion drive’ asked to leave

via TOI published on June 14, 2011

KOCHI: The fear of proselytization by Christian missionaries has gripped the southern most state Kerala yet again. Three US women tourists were asked to leave the country following complaints that they along with the local pastors were trying to convert “poor families” to Christianity in the coastal area of Alappuzha district in Kerala.

However, the state police said that the three tourists were asked to quit because they had violated the tourist visa rules by trying to attend organized group activities and meetings. The Circle Inspector (CI) of Police J Santhoshkumar who is investigating the case told the TOI that the three women – Shelly Louise Deeds (50) a nurse in Pennsylvania, her daughter Katelyn Heather Deeds (15) and Diane Gean Harrington, a teacher at Wisconsin had arrived here about 15 days ago, and their tourist visas were valid till November this year.

However, the activists of some Hindu organisations complained to the police that the three were trying to convert the poor people by offering them material inducements. “They were targeting the poor families in the coastal area and were trying to convert them with several offers. The area had significant Hindu and Muslim population while only some recent converts were part of the Christian community. The pastors and foreigners were trying to influence the local people through the new converts. They had visited several houses in the area and conducted prayer sessions,” RSS Taluk office-bearer Raghu said.The proposed prayer sessions by the local pastors and the tourists created a commotion in the area and the right-wing Hindu organizations threatened to launch a protest.

“We have not received any evidence to indicate the three US women were engaged in conversion-related activities. However, they were about to attend religious prayers session. They have come on visit visas and the law of the land doesn’t permit them to attend any organized meeting or group activities including the prayer sessions. We were not clear about their intentions.That is why we asked them to leave the country, and they agreed. There is no deportation involved. They are now waiting for their return tickets,” the district SP Asok Kumar said.

The police sources said they are gathering the details of the activities of the three pastors Sabu (47), Jacob (34) and James (45) from Kottayam district. The police said the US Embassy India had also been informed about the incident.

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