By ICC’s India Correspondent
11/14/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “In spite of intense harassment and persecution against Christians, new people are being added to the Church,” Pagnu Markham, a lay leader from Nachandi village, located in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, recently told International Christian Concern (ICC). According to Pagnu, three families from Nachandi embraced Christianity in the past two months, even after witnessing the persecution facing Christians of that village for more than a year.
Assaults and social boycotts, a practice in which Christians are banned from participating in village life, are common tactics used by radical Hindu nationalists to intimidate and harass Christians. This form of persecution gained momentum when more than 50 villages in Chhattisgarh passed local resolutions banning non-Hindu religions in 2014, a month after the BJP-led government assumed power at the federal level.
Because of this intense persecution, eight of the 16 Christian families in Nachandi succumbed to the pressures of Hindu radicals and gave up their Christian faith after more than a year of harassment. The entire village of Nachandi, influenced by Hindu radicals, turned against the Christians at a village gathering last year, on April 8, 2016. There, the Christians were threatened with dire consequences if they failed to convert back to Hinduism. To conclude the village gathering, a resolution was passed that banned all non-Hindu religious practice and punished those who violated the resolution with social boycotts.
In spite of this severe persecution, eight families have endured the consequences of their faith and continued to follow Jesus.
“The intensity of persecution grew even more in the last year and a half,” Pagnu Markham told ICC. “In spite of the social boycott and continuous harassment, new people are embracing Jesus. This is what makes the Hindu radicals even angrier.”
“I was a drunkard and my wife suffered with unusual weakness that no doctor could diagnose her disease,” Santhu Netam, a new Christian convert in Nachandi, told ICC. “Almost on a daily basis I used to visit a witch doctor. I spent lot of money on her medication and nothing worked. At last, I took my wife to the church. The believers prayed for her and she was delivered from demon possession which was the cause of the weakness.”
Since this deliverance, Santhu and his wife have adhered to their new faith, but that faithfulness has been met with hostility because it happened after the 2016 village gathering where Christianity was outlawed. Santhu has been threatened numerous times and told by Hindu radicals that he must give up his Christian faith.
Last month, more than 70 radicals attempted to demolish Santhu’s house after they alleged that the gods and goddesses were angry with the village because Christian prayers were being offered in Santhu’s house which is adjacent to a Hindu temple. The radicals beat several Christians, including Santhu, but were prevented from demolishing the house entirely.
In addition to Santhu and his wife, Jugnu Netam and his wife, Sumitra Netam, also embraced Jesus in July 2017. For this, they were thrown out of their house. Fortunately, their new spiritual family in Nachandi has looked after them by providing them with food and shelter.
“The persistence and the commitment of Christians in the midst of several challenges encouraged me to be strong in faith,” Jagnu told ICC. “I am ready to face persecution and will continue to follow the Lord.”
For the Christians of Nachandi, their commitment to their faith in the face of persecution has been a great witness to their neighbors. Instead of driving people away from Christianity, the persecution they have endured has actually allowed them to showcase what it is to be a true follower of Christ.