KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Tennessee pastor heading up a non-profit ministry is detained overseas.
Shelbyville Pastor Bryan Nerren has been traveling to India and Nepal for the past 17 years, training people there to become Sunday school teachers.
On his most recent trip, Indian customs agents arrested Nerren, claiming he violated the Foreign Exchange Management Act.
An attorney representing Nerren says a judge in India retained his passport and ordered a travel ban. He was carrying funds to cover expenses for two conferences in India and Nepal along with money for 13 ministers during that two-week trip.
“It’s really hard to characterize it as anything other than a setup,” said East Tennessee pastor Jim Gore. He was traveling with Nerron when he was arrested.
“After interrogating pastor Bryan about the nature of the funds, and what our agenda was there in country. One of the interesting first questions that he was asked was are you a Christian?” Gore said.
The attorney representing Nerren says the problem wasn’t that it’s illegal to have the funds or travel with them, but the fact that officials in New Delhi did not provide the necessary documentation to account for them.
“At any time had he been given any declaration form, he would have absolutely filled that out,” said American Center for Law and Justice attorney Cece Heil. “He was actually let out on bail after six days of staying in jail. The bad thing about that is the judge retained his passport and put a travel ban on him, so Pastor Nerren right now is currently trapped in India.”
Still, he’s able to communicate with his attorney, family, and friends. including pastor Gore.
“He has stayed very calm and is really believe it or not even though he’s the one being detained in India, he’s the source of strength for all of us back here in the states,” Gore said.
A hearing scheduled for Nerren on Oct. 22 didn’t happen. He has another court date set for Dec. 12. In the meantime, fellow pastor Gore is encouraging people here to not only pray, but to also put action behind their prayers and speak up about this case to local lawmakers.
Several Washington lawmakers, lead by Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, will meet on Oct. 30 to look at the next steps for the pastor.
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