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ICC Note: A pastor and his mother in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu were severely harassed by police after they enquired as to why police had interrupted a church service. According to reports, the pastor’s mother suffered a seizure as a result of the harassment. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship in India are skyrocketing. Many attribute this rise in attacks to the impunity perpetrators enjoy due to lack of police enforcement.

06/03/2018 India (Morning Star News) – After three policemen in southern India interrupted a pastor as he preached this month, his 58-year-old mother accompanied him to the police station. Officers told them to sit on the floor.

Pastor Paul Joshua’s mother, Florence Jacintha, would face worse treatment at Peelamedu police station in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu state, on May 13.

“I was only trying to find out what the complaint was and who complained, but the inspector got stirred up and began talking to me in foul language in Tamil,” Pastor Joshua told Morning Star News. “Very disrespectfully, he told my mother and me to sit on the floor. He was treating us like criminals.”

The 30-year-old pastor said that, at the church service, the officers told him only that a complaint had been filed against him.

“They told me that I need only go to the police station, and that it was only an enquiry,” he told Morning Star News. “They were very polite and assured me that it was not an arrest, and that the inspector would talk to me in detail. [Later] Inspector Selvaraj told us to shut up and sit on the floor, and that he has nothing to say to us.”

He calmly asked why the inspector had sent the policemen for him and why he was speaking to him so disrespectfully. The inspector yelled back at him and his mother in abusive language, a video circulating on social media shows.

“He lost his cool and was saying that I have no rights to question why I was called,” Pastor Joshua told Morning Star News.

A congregation member identified only as 20-year-old Muthuvel also accompanied them to the police station and was recording the exchange on his mobile phone. Officers slapped him and snatched his phone away, but they were not able to delete the video, Muthuvel told Morning Star News.

“We just have a part of it recorded, but a lot happened there,” Pastor Joshua said. “The policemen caught my mother’s hand with a tight grip so that she was wailing in pain, while one dragged her recklessly. She was tensed, her blood pressure levels fell. She was sweating heavily. Suddenly she had a seizure attack.”

He pleaded with officers to at least provide her a glass of water, he said.

But the inspector warned, he said, “Nobody will give them water. She is just acting. They get lot of money for this. They preach and cheat the people.”

He continued mocking the pastor and threatened to file unrelated, serious charges against him, the pastor said.

“After a while, he left warning the police personnel not to give us water,” Pastor Joshua said. “Some kind soul in the police station called 108, and an ambulance arrived. But they were telling me that I can’t go with my mother to the hospital, and that I should remain in custody till the inspector permits me to move.”

Crying bitterly, Pastor Joshua pleaded with police to allow him to accompany his mother to the hospital, he said.

“I felt so helpless. After about an hour, someone dared to give some water, and by God’s grace she slowly came back to normal condition.”

Church members sent messages to other area pastors, who arrived at the police station. Officers demanded that Pastor Joshua submit a letter that he would not conduct church services, he told Morning Star News.

He declined until one of the senior pastors advised him to write the letter, saying that he could obtain permission later to resume services, Pastor Joshua said.

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For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org