Pastor Bryan Nerren claims Christian persecution is the reason behind his eight-month ordeal in India, in which he was criminally charged along with his passport and $40,000 in cash seized.

Nerren, who leads the non-profit Asian Children’s Education Fellowship, was unable to leave the country for eight months and returned home on May 21.

Nerren says when he and two friends entered the county, they were carrying $40,000 between them to be used as part of a Christian ministry.

Nerren said he was carrying $20,000 himself and properly declared the amount.

His attorney, CeCe Heil, told News4 Investigates in December that when he arrived in Bagdogra, customs agents were waiting to charge him with violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act, which accused him of not having the proper paperwork and not paying a fee.

But Nerren said a custom’s agent told him something much more nefarious.

“The word he used is: we have been ordered to crush every American Christian coming into India, so they’ll never come back and stop bringing money to the Christians in India,” Nerren said.

News4 Investigates found that the religious organization Open Doors cites India as the tenth most dangerous place for Christian persecution in the world, although they do not source their data for that claim.

Nerren then spent six days in jail, and said in six separate occasions, he and his attorney worked out a deal to release him, only to have those deals ignored.

“The judicial system is corrupt. Everything was driven by bribes. I was robbed, extorted, and had to pay blackmail money in the end to come home,” Nerren said.

Nerren said ultimately, he and his attorney were able to convince a judge of his innocence and regain his passport, although the money was never returned.

Nerren said the judge apologized.

“We’re very sorry for this, you’re completely clean, you have no record, you’re welcome to come back to India next year, we’ll try to treat you better,” Nerren said.

Now safe at home, Nerren said he would like to return to India, but never can.

“The people who I do ministry with in Nepal and India – their lives would be in danger if I go back and I was seen with them,” Nerren said.

Nerren said even if he wanted to return, his wife Rhonda has made it clear: his trips to India are over.

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Shelbyville pastor held in India since October returns to Tennessee

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Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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