Christians in Southern India Protest Police Declaring Pastor’s Death a Suicide

ICC Note:

Christians in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu have protested against local police after they ruled the suspicious death of a local pastor a suicide. According to members of the deceased pastor’s church, the pastor’s body showed visible signs of a beating and had received multiple death threats for local Hindu radicals because of his church work. Christians are now calling for an independent examination of the pastor’s body to determine the cause of death. Attacks on Christians in India have dramatically increased in recent years. Much of this is can be blamed on the impunity Hindu radicals enjoy when carrying out assaults of religious minorities. Will justice be truly done in this case or will this just be another biased investigation that denies justice to Christians in India? 

02/05/2018 India (Twin City Telegraph) – Churchgoers in Tamil Nadu, India, are protesting local officials after police ruled the death of Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy – found hanging in the church with visible signs of beatings – a “suicide.”

Periyaswamy had faced repeated death threats from Hindu nationalists who objected to his effectiveness in converting locals to Christianity, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which also advocates for persecuted Christians in India.

Reports have identified Periyaswamy as both an “independent” and “Pentecostal” Christian.

A member of Periyaswamy’s congregation told the BPCA that there was evidence the pastor had been tortured. “His body was later hung up to be found by parishioners, in the killers’ attempt to remove a prominent pastor and terrify his parishioners,” the witness said. The pastor’s body reportedly showed “bruises and welts” inconsistent with a simple suicide hanging, though police have branded the case as such.

Another parishioner told the advocacy group that, if the act was meant to scare Christians in the area, it had succeeded. “This attack has terrified our church parishioners to their core, the death is a brutal murder of a devout Christian Pastor who was more vulnerable because he was alone and trusting of people,” the unidentified believer said. “Pastor Gideon was well loved by all and we will all shed many tears for our lost brother.”

The Catholic news outlet UCA News reported that 2,000 Christians organized to protest the treatment of Periyaswamy’s death on Monday, blocking a major local road and “demanding the arrest of four people they suspect were behind the death of a Christian pastor who was found hanging inside his home.” The suspects, the report claims, are “high-caste Hindus.”

The protesters are also reportedly seeking for the government to place a private, independent doctor on their autopsy team to determine the cause of death, arguing that government officials have a stake in the death being ruled a suicide.

“Not a single Sunday service in the past six months passed off peacefully without disturbance,” fellow Pastor Immanuel Prabhakaran told the outlet, explaining that the church had been the target of multiple acts of vandalism and Periyaswamy faced death threats for “polluting” the area with Christianity.

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