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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sexual abuse victims of pastor allege inaction by TN police, write to Amit Shah seeking justice

Sexual abuse victims of a pastor have written to Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman seeking action against the pastor and his illegal NGO. The pastor sexually abused and harassed female churchgoers including minors. He was arrested last year following a complaint from one of the victim’s grandmother. Victims have alleged that the pastor continues to run the church even after the arrest and has encroached on government property to build his church.

Amy, a social activist and national-level gold medalist in hurdling, spoke to the media about the pastor’s misdoings. She said, “Srilankan native Sherard and his wife Helen run a church in the midst of a residential area on the land parcel with Survey number 233/52. They have encroached 650 sq.ft of Poramboke land near a water body to build a church and a kitchen for the catering service they run. They have obtained electricity connections illegally and use it for commercial purposes.

Last year Sherard sexually harassed 3 Dalit girls and one Muslim girl (residing?) in the church. They recorded their confessions in court. Earlier an old woman had filed a complaint with the police accusing the pastor of separating her daughter-in-law and 2 granddaughters from her and sexually abusing them. But the police didn’t take any action. The Indian citizenship of POCSO accused Sherard who is a Srilankan must be revoked”. Amy and the relatives of the victims have sent a petition to that effect requesting Home Minister Amit Shah to direct authorities to fast-track the investigation.

They have sent another petition to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman as well requesting her to look into the funding of pastor Sherard’s NGO. The petition says, “To receive funds from foreign countries a license should be obtained as per the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act(FCRA). But Sherard Manohar received money from foreign countries without obtaining any such license. The Enforcement Directorate should initiate action against him”.

Pastor Sherard and his wife Helen were booked under the POCSO Act in November 2022 after a 16 year old girl’s grandmother filed a complaint against them. The pastor runs a church named Apostle Christ Assembly (ACA)- Jesus Miracles Ministries in Chennai. He had sent his nude photos to the girl and sexually harassed the girl through messages. In one of his messages, he said, “Hugging and kissing are not wrong”. He had deleted the messages he sent to the victim after the issue came out. Police recovered them and found the girl’s allegations to be true.

His wife aided him by hiding and defending his sexual crimes. She forced the girl to say that the pastor is a good person and he didn’t abuse her. She recorded it as a video and used it to convince others that the allegations were false. Despite the fact that both have been arrested and it was found that victims were sexually abused in the church, Sherard’s properties allegedly continue to function. 

Activists and relatives of victims have demanded that the church and the associated properties should be sealed and the encroachment removed. It is further alleged that fearing loss of property the pastor’s aides have started dismantling the buildings to sell the property before authorities issue notice.

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