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By ICC’s India Correspondent

2/16/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – India’s Christian community continues to suffer intense persecution as Hindu radicals unleashed another brutal assault on a Christian gathering in Nagepur village in Telangana State. This attack, which took place on January 17, resulted in the hospitalization of six Christians, most being admitted with severe internal injuries. Among the injured was a four-year-old girl who suffered a broken leg.

According to the 2015 Annual Report on Christian persecution released by the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), Telangana was ranked as India’s second most persecuted state. The report also documented a 20% rise in Christian persecution overall in India, marking 2015 as the worst year for Christians since India’s independence in 1947.

According to International Christian Concern’s (ICC) sources, a mob of 40 Hindu radicals stormed into a Christian’s home during a prayer gathering in Nagepur and violently assaulted those in attendance. The prayer gathering had been planned by Mr. Poshetti, a member of the local branch of the Church of South India (CSI), who invited approximately 20 Christians to pray at his home.

It was [a] very scary scene,” Pastor Nitin Kumar, head pastor of the local CSI church, told ICC. “They tore my cassock and I received blows, punches, [and] kicks from all directions as I was their prime target. [Our] Bibles were snatched from us and were tore and trampled. [Other] believers ran to all directions as they were chased by the mob.

The Hindu radicals caused further damage by destroying the musical instruments and other electronics being used at the prayer gathering. The attackers also harassed the Christian women in attendance, leaving some of the young Christian girls traumatized.

According to the victims, following the assault, everyone from the prayer meeting was able to regroup at their local church to make sure that everyone was accounted for. Pastor Kumar stated, “We cried together for what happened and prayed and encouraged one another. We did not have energy to go and inform the police as none of us were in a good shape.

When ICC visited the victims of this assault in the hospital, Pastor Kumar was in poor condition and had developed an infection in his lower back due to the assault. The pastor was hardly able to speak with ICC during the visit. Swelling all over his body made the simplest tasks, such as lying in bed, very painful.

Rev. Ronald John, President of the Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee (TCJAC), told ICC that, “Christians are paying [a] heavy price for following Jesus. This is not acceptable. This country is supposed to be [a] free nation where everyone has [the] right to profess and practice the religion of their choice. The governments should take note of this violence and take measures to safeguard the rights of all, no matter what the religious identity is.

Unfortunately, 2016 has started as a very difficult year for Christians in India. In just the first five weeks of the year, ICC has recorded 22 instances of persecution against India’s Christian community, most of which are being perpetrated by radical Hindu groups. Many Christians fear that 2016 will continue to be a tough year for Christians and may top 2015 as the worst year for Christians in India’s history. As long as India’s government does little to counter Hindu extremists and enforce the rights of Christians, this fear will likely be realized.