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Assam: 2 US nationals nabbed, fined for attending Christian conversion ceremony in violation of tourist visa norms

The US nationals have been identified as John Matthew Boone (64) with passport No. 644539186 and Michael James Flunchum (77) with passport Np. 681022887.

Assam’s Sonipur Police has arrested two US citizens in Tezpur for violating tourist visa norms by attending a Christian conversion ceremony.

The US nationals have been identified as John Matthew Boone (64) with passport No. 644539186 and Michael James Flunchum (77) with passport Np. 681022887.

Sonitpur Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Madhurima Das reportedly said that the police has informed the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Kolkata and it is likely that the US nationals will be issued Leave-India notices.

A $500 fine was imposed on the duo and they were released after. Boone and Flinchum had attended the inauguration of a Baptist Christian association office on 31st January.

“A Baptist association had held a building inauguration function in Tezpur and Baptist leaders from different parts of Assam had gathered there. The two US nationals were also present there. The building itself is incomplete, it is half-done, so we have to say that they had come for conversion activities. Since they were in the country on tourist visas, they cannot participate in any religious meet,” the ASP said.

According to police sources cited by the Assam Tribune, the US citizens had entered Assam a few days ago after travelling in different parts of India.

They attended the inauguration of the North Bank Baptist Christian Association office at the Baptist Mission Complex in Tezpur on 31st January.

According to tourist visa norms, foreigners travelling to India are not permitted to attend religious preaching or conversion programmes.

In October 2022, the Assam government instructed the police force across districts to monitor foreigners participating in conversion activities in violation of visa norms.

They were also instructed to monitor religious gatherings and the travel documents of foreigners who attended them.

Following this, 27 Bangladeshis, Swedish and German foreign nationals were reportedly detained and deported in a month for preaching at religious events in Assam.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has spoken about protecting “indigenous faiths” from conversion activities at the 8th International Conference and Gathering of Elders organised by the International Centre for Cultural Studies in Dibrugarh.

He had said, “Unfortunately, indigenous communities in India often become the target of conversion efforts by mainstream religions. Missionary activities carried out by various religious groups can result in a decline in population who practise indigenous faith.”

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