ICC’s India Representative
05/12/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christians in India suffered a difficult Easter Week this year. For tribal Christians in the Junwani village of Chhattisgarh, Easter was especially difficult. Village authorities outlawed church attendance on Easter Sunday and fined Christians $312.00, almost four to five months’ wages, per person if they attended.
One Christian, 40-year-old Somari Komra, was fined for attending church on Easter. He, along with three others, told International Christian Concern (ICC) how they were intimidated and forced to stand like criminals in the middle of a village gathering the day after Easter. Komra shared, “We knew that we would be assembled by the village leaders for going to the church on Easter Sunday as five men from the village were seen at the church premises to spy and to testify against us.”
While being questioned, Komra reacted to the fines and restrictions by telling the village leaders, “I was suffering with physical illness and mental disorder but none of you came and helped me. Neither the village leaders nor the society helped. But Jesus made me well as I trusted in Him and started going to church. I will not stop going to church and I am ready to pay the fine and face the consequences of social boycott. If you stop me [from going to] church, then you must take the responsibility of my health.”
After this incident, 15 Christian families were forced by the elders of the village to “reconvert” to Hinduism. For those who refused, tough restrictions were imposed.
Shivaram Tekam, a member of one of the 15 families, remembers the reconversion ceremony, “As a sign of conversion to our old faith, I had to give the pair of chickens, a bottle of wine, and 551 rupees to the village deity. The priest, along with the elders, sacrificed the chickens to the deity. This sacrifice was a sign of accepting me back to the old faith and community.”
“I had to do this because I attended the church on Easter Sunday,” he added.
After this incident, Shivaram met with a local pastor. He told the pastor, “They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church.
55-year-old Kanesh Singh, another Christian from Junwani, refused to pay the fine as well as renounce his faith in Jesus. He openly questioned the elders of the village, saying, “What crime have I committed that I should pay the fine? I have not stolen anything. I have not defiled any woman. I have not quarreled. I have not killed anybody. If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day.”
A local pastor, who wished to remain unnamed, told ICC, “These Christians of Junwani are going face an even more dangerous situation for following Jesus. The police hardly take notice of their cry. Some are bold enough to declare their faith in Jesus and are ready to face the consequences, while others, due to their vulnerability, choose to follow the Lord secretly.”
Christians in India, particularly in Chhattisgarh, continue to suffer intense persecution for their faith. Attending church on a sacred day like Easter or Good Friday is now leading to fines, boycotts, and public humiliation. As incidents like these continue to rise in India, how many more Christians will face similar situations for no other reason than attending a church service? If India is to be considered a secular democracy, surely these are the types of rights violations that should be cracked down upon by the BJP-led government.