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India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution

ICC Note

Widespread persecution of Christians has continued in India. This article summarizes some of the persecutions over the past few weeks.

07/25/2011 India (CDN)-Hindu extremists on July 14 summoned three Christian families of Missionary Grace Fellowship and demanded that they abandon Christ or face a social boycott in Lathikata, Banapur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a Christian woman identified only as the wife of Sarat Naik declared before the intolerant Hindus and others that she and other Christians were prepared to undergo persecution, but that under no circumstances would they abandon Christ. She said relationship with Christ had transformed their lives, according to the GCIC. Area Christian leaders were reportedly taking steps to help the Christians.
 
Uttar Pradesh – In what appeared to be a premeditated attack, state police arrested five pastors and a Christian woman after Hindu extremists stormed into their prayer meeting on July 13 in Bighapur, Unnoa, and accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 11 a.m., 70 Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal attacked the meeting organized by Pastor A.B. Singh, Pastor Ganga Prasad and another identified only as Pastor Robert. Officers and extremists threatened the pastors, later arresting Pastor Prasad and Christians Om Prakash, Desh Kumar, Vinod Kumar, Prem Shankar and a woman identified only as Uma. They were released on bail at about 7 p.m. the same evening.
 
West Bengal – In Midnapur, Hindu extremists on July 10 seized St. Priscilla School, beating the Rev. Nathan Hazre, owner of the school, and his wife, Sabitha Hazre, while accusing them of forceful conversion. A source told Compass that the extremists removed all Christian devotional items. Led by Dr. Sushil Mahanty, the intolerant Hindus told the Christian family that they would burn them to death in the same manner that Australian Christian worker Graham Staines and his two sons, ages 10 and 6, were killed in Orissa state in 1999. In January the extremists had threatened school Principal Daniel Barik. Fearful Christians filed a police complaint, but officers had taken no action at press time.
 
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists on July 3 disrupted the Sunday worship of a Believers Church in Pali, Korba, tearing up Bibles and gospel literature and beating Pastor Sunil Masih as they accused him of forceful conversion. The Rev. Ravi Paksh, secretary of the Korba Christian Forum, reported that the extremists from the Bharatiya Janata Party forcefully entered the worship meeting at about 11:30 a.m. The extremists took the pastor and other Christians to a police station, where the Christians told police that they had not been converted by force or fraud and attended church services willingly. Officers detained the pastor for about six hours, and after area leaders’ intervention, he was released without charges.

Uttar Pradesh – An enraged mob on July 3 beat Pastor John C.V. Samuel and his wife, accusing the pastor of forceful conversion, in Manpuri. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported the incident took place when Pastor Samuel of Assembly of God’s Church, his wife and other Christians were about to attend a burial service for Anil Saxena, who had attended the church for two years and had committed suicide after an argument with his father. The mob rushed the pastor and his wife and accused them of being the cause of Saxena’s death. Saxena’s wife intervened, telling the assailants that she and her late husband went to the church of their own free will and nobody had forced them, and she called police. Officers arrived and rescued Pastor Samuel and his wife, taking them to Pushpanjali Hospital, Agra. Area Christian leaders filed a police complaint, but no actions had been taken at press time.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists in Dhantulsi on July 2 attacked a Christian’s wedding reception and subsequent worship service, beating those at the gatherings and leaving their food in ruins. The Rev. Abel Varghese, area pastor and coordinator of Althea Indian Mission, told Compass that about 60 extremists beat women and children among those they attacked after barging into the wedding reception of tribal Christian Dhurau Kachalam. They also burned Christians’ vehicles. The Christians submitted a complaint to Kanker police, but the extremists continued threatening them, telling them to either stop Christian activities or leave the area. Sources said police pressured the Christians to withdraw their complaint and refused to take any action on their behalf.

Orissa – In Bendoguda, Malkangiri, Hindu radicals at midnight, June 28, destroyed a church building under construction. About 25 Christian families belonging to the Koya tribe were trying to build a worship center from their meager savings on a small piece of land donated by a Christian named Aitu Podiami. Hindu extremists had also attacked the same group of Koya tribal Christians in November 2010; at that time, with intervention from the Global Council of Indian Christians and the area sub-collector, a peace agreement between the communities had been reached. The Hindu extremists last month violated the agreement, and the village head has been pressuring tribal Christians to refrain from complaining to police about the incident.