Date: March 31, 2013
By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- An evangelical Indian pastor who spent eight years in prison on "false charges of being a rebel" could celebrate Easter with his family Sunday, March 31, after he was unexpectedly released, missionaries said.
Pastor Samuel, who uses only one name, is "finally free", explained his mission group Gospel for Asia.
The church leader was detained in 2004 in the eastern state of Jharkhand, which is home to thousands of insurgent Maoists fighting for communist control.
After a vicious fight that left 19 policemen dead, authorities searched for rebels behind the attacks. Thinking they found one in 2004, the supposed insurgent was detained and put in prison.
"I was totally depressed in this situation, but the Lord helped me to realize He has a special plan for me to be in the prison," Samuel wrote in a published letter following his arrest.
Yet, "The Lord is he$lping me to share the love of Jesus with the prisoners. Through my ministry, I see the transformation that is happening in the lives of the prisoners," he wrote.
In 2010 Pastor Samuel was officially cleared of all charges, but national strikes and delayed court hearings kept him behind bars till this month, according to Christians familiar with the case.
Following his March 13 release he was finally able to return to his wife and now eight-year old daughter, GFA confirmed.
However as "Many prisoners chose to follow Christ through Pastor Samuel’s efforts, he looks forward to continuing in ministry now that he has been released," GFA said.
Pastor Samuel isn't the only Christian leader behind bars in India, added GFA, which trains, equips, and sends out national missionaries throughout Asia "to reach" their people "for Christ".
MISSIONARIES FACING DIFFICULTIES
"Many of our missionaries face extremely difficult and unexpected circumstances," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan.
"But they know these are normal challenges for servants of God working in such unreached areas where the powers of darkness are so strong," he added.
"These missionaries are willing to face these unexplainable circumstances and continue on. And God is blessing their sacrifice."
It was not immediately clear when and if the pastor will receive compensation for his time in prison from authorities. India, a heavily Hindu nation, has come under international pressure to improve its judicial and prison system.
Rights activists say India's legal system is painfully slow, corrupt and inefficient, with many cases lasting years, even decades.