Indian Christians Forced to Live as Hindus or Face Severe Consequences
By ICC’s India Correspondent
08/28/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “Fifteen families have stopped attending my church in Jhabua in the last six months,” Pastor Singh told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The reason for this drop in the attendance is the threats from Hindu radicals. The radicals say they will beat and kill my church members if they continue to attend the services.”
The threats against Pastor Singh’s congregation in the rural villages of India’s Madhya Pradesh State are just another example of the growing climate of intolerance that Christians in India are facing. Not only has this intolerance left Christians in deep distress, it has also left them in a position where they are denied the fundamental religious freedom rights that are guaranteed by India’s constitution.
“Prior to May this year, around 200 people used to worship regularly in my church,” Pastor Singh explained to ICC. “But now only 50 to 60 people attend my church on Sunday. They are under tremendous pressure from Hindu radicals.”
ICC went on to speak with three of the 15 families that stopped attending Pastor Singh’s church. ICC discovered that these families were under serious threat of physical attack.
“I am Christian by birth,” Shankar Damor, a 37-year-old from Kardubadi village near Jhabua, told ICC. “Yet me and my family are being constantly harassed with accusations of converting to a foreign faith and deserting the Hindu religion.”
Shankar and his family are one of the 15 families that stopped attending Pastor Singh’s church. According to Shankar, the main reason for this was the social boycott against his family because of their Christian faith.
“In a meeting last May in the village of Kardubadi, the Christians were told that we should not attend any church and should not even pray in our homes,” Shankar explained. “When we complained to the village diktat, the entire village stopped associating with us. No one attended our weddings and we were totally cut off from the people of the village.”
“In that same month, when my family was praying in our house, someone from the village called the police and I was taken to the police station on false charges of forced conversions,” Shankar said. “The police beat me brutally and harassed me while in custody.”
“We Christians are closely monitored as to where we are going and whom are we meeting. It’s quite a pathetic life we are living. However, we are not going to leave Jesus, no one is going snatch Jesus from our hearts.”
After this incident, Shankar moved to the neighboring state of Gujarat, approximately 300 miles from his home village, in search of work to feed his family. “We are on shaky ground as a family,” Shankar reported. “However, we might stop attending the church, but we will not leave Jesus.”
Babu Singh Damor, another Christian from Kardubadi village, told ICC, “I completed [my] Bachelor of Theology and wanted to serve as a pastor, but now I have to keep my faith under the carpet and live like [a] non-Christian.”
“We Christians are closely monitored as to where we are going and whom are we meeting,” Babu explained. “It’s quite a pathetic life we are living. However, we are not going to leave Jesus, no one is going snatch Jesus from our hearts.”
Pansingh Bhuriah, a 23-year-old Christian by birth and former member of Pastor Singh’s church, decided to distance himself from the church and Christian activities after his sister was sent to jail on false charges of forced conversion.
“We are attacked from all corners,” Pansingh told ICC. “It affects our livelihood as we are denied work in the village. It affects our social life as nobody from the entire region attends any of our social gatherings. We have been forced to not identify with Christians and churches and live like Hindus in the village.”
Shankar Damor concluded by saying, “Pran jaye per vachan ne jaye.” In English, this translates to: “Promises are more important than your life and they must be kept, even if you have to sacrifice your life.” In keeping with this saying, Shankar wants to find ways in which he can practice his faith without being identified. Shankar is essentially being pushed underground in a country where religious freedom is supposed to be a constitutional right.
Unfortunately, the persecution and intolerance in Kardubadi village is not isolated. It has become a trend in Madhya Pradesh, with some villages persecuting their local Christians with greater intensity.
For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org