Pastor Narrowly Escapes Attack by Hindu Radicals in India

By ICC’s India Correspondent

06/27/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The evening of June 5 was just another routine Tuesday for Pastor Mukunda Sagar, age 38, as he carried out his ministry in Talpadartijra and other villages in the Bargarh District of Odisha.

Pastor Sagar’s main ministry is located in Talpadartijra where he lives along with wife, two small children, and his parents. Pastor Sagar also leads weekly Bible studies with small groups ranging from two to four families in five other villages surrounding Talpadartijra.

Tuesdays are dedicated to a village known as Kumelsinga, a bigger village with a population of approximately 3,000, located three miles away from Talpadartijra.

On June 5, Pastor Sagar was supposed to pray in the house of Bihari Chandu, a paralyzed individual, before starting the normal evening Bible study in Kumelsinga.

Pastor Sagar knew that the Chandu family would be waiting for him, but didn’t realize that a group of violent extremists was also waiting for him.

When Pastor Sagar reached Kumelsinga on his motorbike, he entered Chandu’s house for prayer. Moments later, a group of people arrived at the house, asking the pastor to come outside to speak with them.

When Pastor Sagar stepped outside, nearly 20 people from the Bajrang Dal, a Hindu radical group, along with the local villagers, altogether numbering around 50 people, surrounded him and began beating him.

I had no reason to doubt their intentions as previously I had not received any threats or warnings,” Pastor Sagar told International Christian Concern (ICC). “So, I walked into a trap.”

They didn’t give me any chance to talk or answer their questions,” Pastor Sagar continued. “They simply accused me of converting people to Christianity and began to hit me. While abusing me with vulgar words, they also began to abuse the name of Jesus.”

Pastor Sagar was hit severely on the head, ribs, and legs. “They tore off my shirt and burnt it. Next, they targeted my motorbike, hoping to prevent my escape,” he recalled.

“I will live and die for Christ. I have no fear. I will continue my ministry and I am ready to suffer.”

He had locked the handle of the motorbike when he parked it, preventing the radicals from moving it easily. However, they dragged it violently into the street and damaged the front portion of the vehicle.

While I was being beaten by the radicals, none of the Kumelsinga villagers came to my rescue, but amazingly, God used the attackers themselves to save me,” Pastor Sagar said.

Since the motorbike handle was locked, the radicals demanded that Pastor Sagar give them the key. When he told them that it was inside Chandu’s house, the radicals asked him to fetch it.

Seizing this opportunity, Pastor Sagar limped his way toward Chandu’s house. However, instead of entering the home, he mustered his strength and jumped over the low compound wall under the cover of darkness and escaped into the nearby woods to hide.

Soon, the attackers realized that Pastor Sagar had fled and came hunting for him in the woods armed with torchlights.

Pastor Sagar lay flat, frozen in fear in the brush among the trees. He shared, “In that pitch darkness, as the silence of death seemed imminent upon me, the only ray of hope was God who gave me assurance and the mobile in my pocket.

According to Pastor Sagar, God prevented the attackers from discovering his hiding place. After unsuccessfully trying to locate him with their torchlights, they eventually left.

When my attackers left, I made a phone call to my church people and my brother back in Talpadartijra,” Pastor Sagar said.

Around 12:30 a.m., Pastor Sagar’s brother and a few other members of the pastor’s church arrived. “By the time rescue arrived, my throat was dry and I was feeling very thirsty due to the injuries. I was taken home and in the morning taken to Bulla government hospital, which is close to Sambalpur, one of the bigger cities of Odisha,” Pastor Sagar recalled.

Since the pain in Pastor Sagar’s left ribs did not subside, he visited another hospital. There, X-rays came back normal and a Christian doctor prescribed him with medicine to alleviate some of his pain.

This is my 18 years of ministry and although there have been threats, this is the first time I got beaten up,” Pastor Sagar explained. “But, I will live and die for Christ. I have no fear. I will continue my ministry and I am ready to suffer.”

When asked about the future of his ministry in Kumelsinga village, where he was attacked, Pastor Sagar said that he is speaking with the local believers and will decide on the future course of action. Please keep Pastor Sagar, his ministry, and the many other pastors like him in prayer as they continue to advance the Gospel in the face of heavy opposition in India.

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

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