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By ICC’s India Correspondent

02/01/2018 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The persecution of Christians in India continues to escalate in a dramatic fashion. In just a single weekend, four instances of persecution, including the destruction of a church and the burning of hundreds of Bibles, were reported to International Christian Concern (ICC) in India’s Telangana state. While these attacks have left local Christians in a state of panic, many are still standing committed to their Christian faith.

According to local Christians in Daulthabad, a suburb northwest of Hyderabad, a mob of 60 radicals belonging to the Hindu Vahini group gathered on Sunday, January 28, and began terrorizing the Christian community. The mob first attacked the Gilgal Prardhana Mandiram Church where Christians were gathered for worship. As they approached, the mob chanted “Jai Sriram” to terrify the worshiping Christians. Next, the mob forced themselves into the church hall where the worshipers were gathered.

At this point, the radicals got into a confrontation with church members that ended with the pastor of the church and his wife being attacked and accused of participating in illegal conversions. The radicals then pulled down the church’s sign before they headed to their next target.

This was the first time in 12 years our service has been attacked,” Aruna Sudhakar, the wife of Gilgal Pradhana Mandiram Church’s head pastor, told ICC. “The road ahead will be very rough. We don’t know if we will even be allowed to have a worship service next Sunday. There are 80 plus believers who attend our worship service and they are all shattered and disturbed. But, we are determined to walk through this difficult path.

The Emmanuel Faith Gospel Church, where more than 30 people worship in a makeshift shed, was the mob’s next target. There, the mob attacked the church and tore down the shed used for worship.

The attack started with the mob beating the church’s pastor, Pastor Emmanuel. As they slapped and abused Pastor Emmanuel, the mob demanded to know if the pastor had permission to run the church. As the mob shifted their attention to the rest of the Christians gathered for worship, they demanded these Christians produce their identification to prove that they are Christians. Before the mob left, they also destroyed musical instruments, speakers, and a public address system.

The development of anti-Christian hate campaigns in our region is very concerning,” Pastor V. Andrew, whose church was the third to be attacked by the mob of radicals on January 28, told ICC. “Thankfully, by the time these thugs came to our church, the worship service was over and believers had dispersed.

They threatened me,” Pastor Andrew explained, sharing details of the mob’s attack on his church. “They told me to stop having worship in the village and threatened me with dire consequences if I continue the worship.

When asked what he will do in response to these threats, Pastor Andrews simply said, “We are not giving up by any means. We are ready to face the challenges ahead.

Similar to the mob attacks in Daulthabad, a mob of Hindu radicals publicly burned more than 700 Bibles in Singotam village, also located in Telangana, on January 26. In addition to burning the Bibles in public, in the middle of the day, the radicals published videos of their assault on social media.

According to Rev. Ronald John, a Christian leader from the region, nine Christians belonging to Gideon International were attacked while returning from distributing New Testaments in the schools of Singotam. The mob stopped the car, pulled all of the Christians out of the car, unloaded Bibles, and burnt them to ashes. They also threatened to burn the car.

According to Rev. John, the mob also accused the Christians of engaging in illegal conversions and accused them of trying to spread a foreign religion. The radicals finished their assault by filing a complaint against the Christians at the local police station, accusing them of forced conversions.

If the goons can burn the Bibles in the daylight and are left scot free, there is clear violation of rights of Christians in this country,” Rev. John explained. “The right to religious freedom is a fundamental right given to every citizen of this pluralistic nation. We demand the responsible authority to take action and implement the law impartially in this case.”

The persecution of Christians in India continues to escalate in both its intensity and number of incidents. While it is still early, many Christians fear that 2018 may be another difficult for Christians and religious freedom in India. Yet, many Christians remain strong and committed in their faith. For many, the thought of renouncing or abandoning their faith is unthinkable. As Aruna Sudhakar shared, “There is no turning back, even if it costs us our lives.