Pastor Brutally Beaten for Leading Open Air Worship Services in India
By ICC’s India Correspondent
11/27/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Earlier this month, a pastor and his congregation were severely beaten in India’s Bihar state. In addition to accusations of forced conversion, a false claim becoming increasingly common in India, the pastor and his congregation were attacked for simply leading an open air service.
Following the attack, Pastor Bangali Das told International Christian Concern (ICC), “Since I am working for the Lord, I have always prepared myself for any kind of eventuality, persecution, or danger. I am prepared to pay the price for serving my God.”
With bandages around his chest and breathing heavily due to chest pain caused by injuries sustained in the beating, Pastor Das recalled heroes from the Bible, “Great men of God in the Bible like Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and their friend Daniel were persecuted. So I feel that it’s an occasion for me to glorify God like them. I will continue to work for the Lord in spite of all such obstacles and pain.”
Das has been serving as a pastor for the past 12 years. He completed Bible training in Patna, the capital city of Bihar, and began his ministry in Bihta, his native town, in 2006. After six years of fruitful ministry, Pastor Das decided to move his ministry to the town of Tetua, located over 30 miles away.
Althought Tetua was a bigger town than Bihta, it did not have any churches. Arriving in Tetua, Pastor Das rented a building and began preaching the Gospel. His ministry grew quickly and the rented building soon began to overflow with visitors eager to hear the Gospel.
Regular prayers increased and Sunday services would attract nearly 200 people in attendance. Someone soon complained to the Tetua police in February 2018 due to the noise of the worship services. The police quickly evicted Pastor Das from the rented premises.
Undeterred, Pastor Das returned to his hometown of Bihta and began commuting to Tetua every Sunday to conduct worship services under the shade of neem trees in an open place.
“Since I didn’t have a place of my own, I was conducting worship service in an open place,” Pastor Das told ICC.
This place belonged to a section of the townspeople known as the Manjhi caste, who brew alcohol in their homes and work in brick kilns.
“Since I am working for the Lord, I have always prepared myself for any kind of eventuality, persecution, or danger. I am prepared to pay the price for serving my God.”
“Through my preaching, many men and women from the Manjhi caste accepted Jesus and they offered me an open place to conduct worship,” Pastor Das explained. “We built a ‘mutt’ (a thatched hut without any walls) and started worshipping under the neem trees.”
“Our fellowship grew to 200 and more people,” Pastor Das continued. “The Manjhis migrate to work in the brick kilns on a seasonal basis in October and November months. So the strength of the church varies from time to time.”
The continued growth of Pastor Das’ ministry did not go unnoticed. “The fanatics didn’t like this open place worship, so they attacked and beat me,” Pastor Das told ICC.
A mob of 150 fanatics, including many non-Christian Manjhi, gathered on November 4 and attacked Pastor Das soon after a worship service concluded.
On that particular Sunday, many of the male believers were away at work in the brick kilns and only 80 to 90 people, primarily women, were gathered in attendance.
The attackers used abusive language and accused Pastor Das of converting people. They pointed out that his open air worship service had created problems and demanded that the pastor stop the regular gathering or move his congregation to a premise with walls and closed doors.
“When our believers requested them to give some time to buy a place and build a worship hall, they surrounded us and started beating us,” Pastor Das said. “Two men caught me and began to rain blows on me with their hands. I got hurt in my chest very badly and my arm was injured. They threw me on the ground and beat me until I became unconscious.”
Pastor Das was unable to talk further with ICC as he began to suffer a severe headache, another result of the beating he endured on November 4. After Pastor Das fell unconscious, he was immediately rushed to a nearby private medical clinic where he was treated for three days. Internal injuries still cause the pastor much pain and he is unable to speak properly.
Over the past two weeks, Pastor Das has been recuperating at his home in Bihta while a Christian woman is continuing to lead Bible classes in Tetua. According to Pastor Das’ son, Sunil Kumar, as soon as his father gets well, he plans to continue the ministry.
Many challenges lie ahead for Pastor Das and the community he leads in Tetua. Raising funds to purchase or build a building for worship will be difficult. Still, the church is not discouraged. In fact, they are already making plans.
“We have to collect money for buying land and constructing a hall,” Sunil told ICC. “It will take at least six months. But we are praying that God may provide us some resources for this purpose.”
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