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Anti-Christian riots in Chhattisgarh have left thousands of Christians homeless

2/3/2023 India (International Christian Concern) — Christians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh continue to reel from a devastating attack from radical Hindu nationals that decimated their communities late last year.

The attacks left more than 2,500 tribal Christians homeless.

“There wasn’t even a time for me to lock the door of my house before I fled to the jungle,” a distressed tribal Christian recently told International Christian Concern (ICC).

Hundreds of Christian homes were looted and vandalized, and many Christians were hospitalized with severe injuries inflicted by radicals during the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.

“They would have killed me and my family had I not fled to the jungle,” said survivor Pastor Kanan. “The phone call that I received from my friend saved my life … he alerted me about the furious mob that was advancing towards our village Gadhbengal carrying sharp weapons and sticks.”

Kanan fled from his village and trekked through thick and dangerous jungle brush. He finally found shelter at his uncle’s house.

Chhattisgarh is one of the eleven Indian states to have anti-conversion laws and has seen an escalation of violent attacks against Christians in the state. The ferocity of these attacks has devastated the Christian communities which have little to no protection or recourse from the government.

On New Year’s Day, an anti-Christian mob of nearly 700 radicals mobilized in the Christian-populated area of Gadhbengal village, Chhattisgarh, and destroyed homes and properties. Thankfully around 200 Christians escaped the mob when they were alerted about rioters heading their way.

A month after the horrifying incident, some Christians are gradually returning to their villages and picking up the piece of their lives. Others, however, are reticent and fearful of more deadly attacks. An overarching concern for all of them is when and where they find their next meal.

“All that I witnessed was devastation,” said Ajay, a Christian survivor from Shantinagar in Narayanpur district, Chhattisgarh. “There was nothing left for us, including the house. They broke the front door, entered inside, and destroyed everything, including our kitchen, furniture, even a Scooty that I use for transportation.” Ajay and his wife work as schoolteachers at a private school. Thankfully, the family was at the school when the rioters ransacked multiple Christian homes, so they escaped uninjured.

Ajay is staying in a rented house along with his wife and two children. The family hopes that one day they can move back to his own house that was destroyed by the rioters. The possibility of rebuilding his house, however, is far from reality. “We are surviving on people’s goodwill,” Ajay told ICC. “Some Christians shared kitchen utensils, some gave us rice and others gave us the basic needs.”

Five Christian families were chased out of their village in Turushmata for refusing to recant their Christian faith on Christmas Eve. Hindu extremists threatened families with death if any of them returned to the village. Pastor Janardan who gave shelter to the families said, “These Christians are poor and innocent, and live hand-to-mouth. They are being targeted for their faith. These families were told that they would be allowed to return if they re-converted to Hinduism.”

Pastor Mohan, who fled his village to Jagdalpur, told ICC, “It’s been more than a month since I fled from my home to stay with my sister, and I am eagerly waiting to get back to my ministry field. But I was advised by members of my congregation not to return as the situation could put me into more trouble.”

“No worship service on Sunday is taking place in the villages of Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts,” a local Christian leader told ICC. “Christians are traumatized and constantly living under fear and intimidation. Their survival is looking very grim on the ground; they need prayers and a helping hand.”

The violent horde of anti-Christian rioters in Narayapur and Kondagaon district looked to force Christians to give up their faith and re-convert to Hinduism. Violence exploded as Christians prepared to celebrate Christmas. Sadly, the entire district had to shut down the Christmas celebration and Christians ran for their lives.

India’s government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is increasingly adopting pro-Hindu nationalist ideologies that are fueled by such radical groups as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). ICC listed Modi and the RSS in recent comprehensive Persecutor of the Year annual reports because of their oppression of Christians.