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Christians, Prayer Center Attacked, Pastor Forced To Hail Hindu God

ICC Note: This is a follow-up story on an article we posted yesterday – Hindu extremists were outraged that God was using a man to heal people, and so they attacked a gathering of about 60 people who were praying together and took the pastor to a Hindu temple to attempt to force him to become a Hindu.

9/11/07 India (UCAN) — Suspected Hindu fanatics tore up a Bible and forced a pastor to pray to Hindu gods when they attacked a Pentecostal prayer center on Sept. 8 in an eastern Indian town.

The attack occurred in Fatuwa, a small town about 20 kilometers east of Patna , capital of Bihar state. Patna is 980 kilometers east of New Delhi .

Pastor Dinanath, who heads a neo-Christian sect that runs the prayer center, told UCA News some 30 people ransacked the center, destroyed a Bible and beat up people gathered for prayers.

They also slapped and punched Pastor Rudal Paswan, accusing him of forcibly converting poor people to Christianity, Pastor Dinanath said. They tore off Pastor Paswan’s clothes, and dragged him to a nearby temple.

At the temple they put a garland around his neck and “smeared red vermilion on his forehead,” symbols of accepting Hindu religion, then forced him to chant Jai Sri Ram (hail Ram) and Hindu hymns, Pastor Dinanath narrated.

The senior pastor also said around 60 dalit from Pastor Paswan’s community were at the prayer meeting, and some of them were to receive baptism. Dalit is a term commonly used to refer to people belonging to communities once considered untouchable in India ‘s traditional caste system.

Pastor Dinanath denied charges of conversion. He explained that they conduct prayers at the center, “where healings take place by the mercy of Lord Jesus (and) people flock to him.” He continued, “We can’t deny baptism to those adults who seek it out of their love and faith in Jesus.”

The head pastor said they have registered a complaint with local police but do not expect to get justice. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian peoples’ party) is an ally of the state government. “So the Hindu ultras (militants) enjoy impunity. We feel it is better to carry on our cross, pray and preach among the people.”

Pastor Dinanath’s group is associated with the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society, which has a network of some 500 prayer centers in Bihar state. Its coordinator, Pastor Samuel Daniel, said the incident has “deeply anguished” them.

A host of small, individual churches “are mushrooming these days,” Pastor Daniel noted. He regretted that “they sometimes resort to irrational ways of preaching and converting,” offering “a chance to vested Hindu groups to persecute them.”

Father Prem Prakash, a local Catholic priest, told UCA News that Pentecostal churches are “like pestering needles” for his parish.

They “mysteriously crop up here and there,” he said. “We know about them only when such violence takes place against them. Ordinary people know nothing about them. Actually, people know only the Catholic Church here because of our school, health center and social services for the past 70 years.”

When Christians are accused of conversion, the priest said, people presume that “we (Catholics) are doing this conversion business.” Nevertheless, he disapproved of the “shabby treatment” accorded the Pentecostal pastor and wants legal action against the assailants.

Anil Jha, BJP general secretary in the state, denied that BJP activists were involved in the attack.

However, he said his party members went to the prayer center and told the aspiring converts “not to quit the Hindu faith.” They also told the dalit that conversion would take away from them constitutional privileges meant for people from marginalized castes. “These words had swayed the minds of the dalit. They vowed to remain Hindus. This is the truth.”

Jha accused Christian missioners of “spreading rumors” that the pastor was forced to chant Hindu chants.

Raj Kumar Mall, a local police official, told UCA News they have registered a complaint against the unknown assailants. But the attacked pastor and his other associates have vanished, he added, “so it has become difficult to carry on the investigation.”

Pastor Diwakar said they do not “want to whip up the matter.” He explained: “We know none of the culprits would be punished. So why stir up a turmoil?”