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Evangelist converts man at Tirumala, posts video online

Hyderabad, Oct 30, 2014, DHNS: 0:48 IST
TV grab of pastor Sudheer with a follower in front of Tirumala temple. He was later arrested.
In a shocking incident that exposed security flaws at the Tirumala hills, a pastor belonging to a Christian evangelical group shot a video of him converting a man at the hill shrine, which he later posted on the social media.

The self-proclaimed pastor, Mondithoka Sudheer, director Emmanuel Baptist Ministries of India, allegedly shot the video during the Brahmotsavam. His ministry is based in Vanasthalipuram here.

Shot by the pastor’s assistant, the video shows him driving his car through the security cordon at Alipiri, addressing the main deity as “small god” and his devotees “lost souls.”

The video, allegedly shot for donors in the United States, urges its audience to help the pastor save more souls by converting them into Christianity. After praying at the walkway at the Mada Street, the pastor was shown walking towards the main gate where he meets a man from Nellore and announces he was disappointed by the “devil god”.

He said he is ready to convert the man before the temple and could save his soul with more help.

A native of Sissannapet, Sudheer took to Christianity in 1980. His Ministry’s website calls India “the land of the Hindus, known for centuries for its idolatry, mysticism and pantheism'”, claiming it “needs a saviour Jesus.”

Police sent the CD of the video to the TTD office on Wednesday and has found a link to the controversial video on the web. They arrested Sudheer on Thursday in Vissannapet near Vijayawada. Telugu news channels have been repeatedly playing the leaked CD since Wednesday afternoon.

With Hindu organisations blaming the TTD for negligence, the Andhra Pradesh government took up the issue at its cabinet meeting on Thursday, assuring it would take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in future.

"We resolve to respect all religions but at the same time stern action will be taken against those who try to misuse such freedom. All necessary steps will be initiated to stop canvassing against Hinduism around Hindu temples,” it said. TTD’s Executive Director MG Gopal assured that the authorities would take steps to end evangelical activities in Tirumala.

“This incident came to my notice with the mail forwarded by former DGP Sri Arvinda Rao to me and I immediately alerted the TTD vigilance and police sleuths", he said, adding that the TTD is contemplating stricter laws to curb evangelical activities and would take the issue to the government for stern action against those indulging in preaching of other religions in the shrine.

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