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By ICC’s India Correspondent
02/01/2017 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – In India, a 47-year-old Christian evangelist, Dr. Kusuma Anjeneya Swamy, suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma hours after a group of Hindu radicals harassed and intimidated him for publicly distributing New Testaments. The incident, which occurred on January 21 in Hyderabad, is just one of several attacks on Christians in and around Hyderabad in recent weeks and has sparked unrest among local Christians. Currently, Dr. Swamy, is fighting for his life in a local ICU.
K. Sujatha, Dr. Swamy’s wife, began recalling Dr. Swamy’s day when she described how he left the house in the morning with a bag of New Testaments to distribute in the streets. This routine was an almost daily occurrence.
As Dr. Swamy began distributing the New Testaments in a park, a group of local Hindus surrounded him. In several short video clips, the group recorded their friends yelling at Dr. Swamy, accusing him of religious propagation. One of the participants said, “We will burn you, and let us see if Jesus would come and save you from the flames.” Continuing with his threats, the man promised, “You and your family members will be finished, if you continue to do this work.”
After several hours of bullying, the mob forced Dr. Swamy to the local police station where the police continued harassing him. They warned him to never distribute Christian literature outside of the church again. They then held him for several hours. Although there was no evidence of physical violence, minutes after Dr. Swamy left the police station, he suffered a brain hemorrhage that left one side of his body paralyzed.
Mrs. Sujatha told International Christian Concern (ICC), “I was shocked when I received a phone call [in the] early evening on Saturday. [They told me] that my husband had a brain hemorrhage and he was rushed to the hospital, [but]…he neither showed any symptoms nor did he have a history of bad health.” She continued, “I couldn’t believe that this has happened to my husband. This could not have happened in normal situations.”
“This is a very unfortunate incident,” said Rev. Dr. Ronald John, State President of Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee. “The ultra-Hindu nationalists are taking the law into their own hands [which] is unacceptable. Even the responsible, so-called law protectors don’t go by the constitution that guarantees religious freedom. This shows how minorities are being treated in this nation.”
Dr. Swamy has served as a regional leader for Gideons International for several years and is committed to distributing God’s written Word. He has been attacked by Hindu radicals and taken to the police station before, but never have those encounters resulted in his admission to the ICU.
“He never did any wrong to anybody,” said Swamy’s mother. “He always loved people and shared the message of love; how could anybody think of harassing my son? And this resulted in a massive hemorrhage,” she cried while describing his critical condition.
As news of Dr. Swamy’s treatment and resulting condition spread, local Christians prepared to hold a rally in response. According to the rally’s co-organizer, Rev. M. Bhaskar, at least 10,000 Christians were supposed to take part in the peaceful protest at Indira Park, Hyderabad on January 31, but local police stopped the protesters’ plans.
Rev. Bhaskar told ICC, “It is unfortunate that the police who are supposed to empower the citizens to exercise their right to protest peacefully [stopped the protest by acting] contrary [to the constitution]. They showed unfair bias [against] Christians.” He continued, “Christians of all denominations and churches spontaneously responded [to Dr. Swamy’s attack] and wanted to be heard by both state and central governments about the brutal attacks that Christian minorities have been facing.”
“We want[ed] to hold [a] peaceful protest rally,” said Timothy Ganupalli, President of God’s Grace Ministries. He spoke to ICC at the police station as he was posting bail for four Christian leaders who were arrested for demonstrating at the Hyderabad press club. “Having a peaceful protest rally is not against the law of the land, but what prompted the police to deny the permission for the rally? It is our right.”
As Christians in India continue to face increasing persecution, remember to pray for individuals like Dr. Swamy who continue to spread God’s Word in the face of hostility.