Christian Communities Shaken by Series of Attacks in Southern India
By ICC’s India Correspondent
08/14/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In July, International Christian Concern (ICC) recorded six attacks on Christians in just one state in India. The attacks recorded included beatings, threats, vandalism, and the disruption of worship services. This swell of violence and intolerance has many Christians living in India’s Telangana State concerned both for their safety and their ability to practice their Christian faith openly.
“We have been living in fear and terror for nearly two weeks now,” K. Sandeep, a 21-year-old Christian and survivor of a recent attack, told ICC.
In late July, Sandeep and his family were brutally attacked by Hindu radicals because of Sandeep’s involvement in the conversion of K. Narender, an upper-caste Hindu. “I was told by Narender’s brother that he would kill me for converting his brother,” Sandeep told ICC. “The next day the villagers took me and my family to the village court and beat us. They beat my mother, sister, and brother for influencing Narender into becoming a Christian.”
As an active member of New Life Blessing Gospel Church in Siriampur village, located approximately 160 miles north of Hyderabad, Sandeep accompanied his pastor on church outreach programs. Six months ago, during one of these programs, Sandeep shared the Gospel with Narender, who was immediately convicted and decided to give his life to Christ. Since then, Narender has been attending worship at New Life Blessing Gospel Church.
After the attack on Sandeep and his family, the village chief forced Sandeep to sign his signature on a blank piece of paper. Unsure what the blank paper was going to be used for, he still signed it.
While speaking with ICC, Sandeep explained that when he committed his life to God, he was ready to face anything for Jesus. He even anticipated hardship. However, this recent attack has made him extremely fearful for his family. He explained that he hated to draw his family into this painful experience.
“We have been living in fear and terror for nearly two weeks now... I was told by Narender’s brother that he would kill me for converting his brother.”
In the same district of Telangana, a church building that was under construction was demolished by radical Hindu nationalists. Pastor Suryam of Fellowship of Indigenous Gospel Churches (FIGC) reported the incident to ICC.
“The demolition was carried out during the night deliberately to wipe out the evidence,” Pastor Suryam explained. “One day prior, Konda Naresh, who claims to be a leading member in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), threatened the believers at the construction site, saying that he will demolish the structure.”
“We have been running the worship service here for the last 16 years,” said Pastor Suryam. “We occasionally received threats, but this time they told us directly to our faces! There has been an increase in the aggressive nature of attacks. We attribute this to the BJP’s victory in the recent elections.”
“Since the demolition, the attendance [at] worship services on Sunday has significantly reduced,” Pastor Suryam said. “I took the issue to the police station, but was denied justice at every office. I have nothing more to do except to go to God in prayer.”
Another pastor, Pastor Israel, from the Mahabubabad district in Telangana State told ICC, “My church was literally choked with trouble from all angles.” He continued, “We couldn’t hold a service for the last four Sundays because radicals would disrupt the worship on Sundays. They threatened us by saying that if we continued to meet for worship, they would beat us.”
After receiving permission from local authorities, Pastor Israel constructed a temporary building to use as a church in Seethanagaram village. Despite having an authorized place of worship, Pastor Israel and his church members have been unable to meet for worship on Sundays due to the threats and harassment from radicals.
“I went to the local police station with a lawyer for help, yet the police ignored me and insisted that we should go to the higher court,” Pastor Israel explained. “It has been very hard dealing with this situation as every door of justice seems to be closed simply because we follow a different faith.”
As a result of these and other reported incidents, the Christian community of Telangana has been shaken. Unfortunately, the fear that has gripped Telangana’s Christians is not unique in India. Since the BJP declared victory in India’s national elections earlier this year, attacks on religious minorities, including Christians, have increased nationwide. Many of India’s Christians now fear for the future of their community as radical nationalists continue to push their extreme ideology of India as an exclusively Hindu nation.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org