India (Morning Star News) – A week after a pastor fell into a coma following harassment by hard-line Hindus in southern India, a gang of Hindu extremists in the same state beat another pastor after he prayed for healing at the home of an elderly church member, family members said.
Police altered the statement of the Rev. Gandham Padma Rao, 49, so that the 10 young men who assaulted him on Jan. 27 in Medipally village, Telangana state, were described only as drunken youths, not members of a Hindu nationalist group as the pastor had stated, his son told Morning Star News.
Pastor Rao fulfilled church duties the two days after the assault before seeking medical help, and doctors told family members that his blood pressure was so high that he could have suffered a hemorrhage had he waited any longer. Another pastor, 47-year-old K.A. Swamy of Hyderabad, on Jan. 21 fell into a coma after suffering high blood pressure and a brain hemorrhage hours after Hindu extremists threatened him with highly offensive language and took him to police for distributing Bibles.
Pastor Rau’s son, Samuel Mark, told Morning Star News his father had left the home of the elderly church member, who had just been released from a hospital, at about 9:30 p.m. and was walking to his car when the young men blocked his way with their motorcycles.
When the pastor ignored them and began walking on the other side of the road, one of the assailants shouted, “Why are you coming to our village? Why are you praying here?” as four others began hitting him, knocking him to the ground, relatives said.
Pastor Rao and eyewitnesses said the youths were members of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Vahini.
“They spoke to me in vulgar language: ‘You must never come to our village to pray. You should never enter our village,’” Pastor Rao told Morning Star News.
Two of the assailants held him while the others punched and kicked him, he said.
“I could not balance myself and fell in a pit nearby,” he said. “They picked me up, threw me on the road and started battering me again. I tried hard to regain my strength and run, but they followed me quickly held my collar, pushed me off with their feet. When I fell down again, they began kicking and beating me again.”
One of the Hindu extremists tried to pick up a large stone and throw it at him, he said. Area residents heard his cries and came out of their homes, including a member of his church who came running and cried out for help.
The church member, identified only as Mariyamma, along with her relatives and other area residents said the assailants were members of the Vishwa Hindu Vahini. A First Information Report was filed in the NTPC Ramagundam police station, but police removed references to the Hindu nationalist group from Pastor Rao’s statement and described the assailants only as drunken wage workers, his son said.
Sub-Inspector P. Chandra Kumar told Morning Star News only that the suspects were young men in police custody.
“The investigation is not yet completed,” he said. “Yes, it is true that the pastor was beaten and the attackers were all youngsters in between ages 24 and 27.”
He declined to reveal the identity of the assailants, but sources said the primary suspect, Chandragiri Shiva Prasad, was in custody.
Pastor Rao drove back to his home in Ramakrishnapuram, where he conducted a baptism ceremony at his church the next day. The following day (Jan. 29), he took painkillers and carried out duties at his church’s Sunday service, but later that afternoon he felt light-headed and was taken to a hospital.
His blood pressure was 200 over 140 mmHg, Dr. D.B. Vamsi told Morning Star News, and the pastor was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Medilife Hospital, Mancherial. A hypertensive crisis is said to begin when blood pressure reaches 180 over 110 mmHG.
“The patient complained of pain,” Vamsi said. “Immediately after we heard about the assault, we sent for more tests. His pains will last for a few weeks.”
The pastor’s family members told Morning Star News that the church’s cross was uprooted and broken two years ago. The church’s sound equipment was destroyed a year ago, and in December, while he joined in Christmas carols, the pastor’s car was punctured with nails, they said.
Family members and visiting pastors said the attack appeared to have been planned. They said the Hindu extremists knew how to strike him so that there would be no bleeding but multiple contusions.
The pastor’s son told Morning Star that his father has been unable to lie down since his back was severely bruised.
“My dad went to visit the families who had been attending our church over years now,” he said. “He had no business to do with the assailants. He didn’t bother anyone. He didn’t even respond to them when they shouted at him. All of a sudden, they began kicking him on the road. Don’t you see it was all planned?”
INDIA: (Morning Star News) – Hindu extremists in Maharashtra state had severely beaten a pastor, pointed a gun at his head and were sprinkling gasoline on him to burn him to death when he began praying and praising Jesus.
Pastor Prashant Bhatnager, 45, is still recovering from broken hand, arm and leg bones, as well as cuts and abrasions on his head and the rest of his body, after about six Hindu extremists led by Gurunath Mumbaikar, president of the Shri Ram Foundation (Shri Ram Pratishtan Sanghtan), on Sept. 16 beat and urinated on him.
Pastor Bhatnager and four other Christians from House of God Church were praying for a sick person and distributing tracts in Taloja, Raigad District when they were attacked, church leaders in Maharashtra told Morning Star News. The Hindu extremist assailants questioned the Christians, snatched their tracts and took them to a public hall, where they held them for two hours, the church leaders said.
Two hours later, at about 8:30 p.m., another 30 Hindu extremists showed up, disparaging the Christians and threatening to kill them, the church leaders said. But the assailants then released the other four Christians, after warning them not to pray for anyone again, and dragged the pastor of the 350-member church into a car.
“The extremists started beating him as they accused him of forceful conversion and then sped up the car and took him away to an isolated place, followed by another 20 extremists on 11 motorbikes,” area church leader Baban Kamble told Morning Star News
At an isolated area, they dragged the pastor out and beat him with an iron rod while accusing him of forceful conversion and destroying the minds of the villagers by leading them to believe in Christ, Pastor Bhatnagar said.
“They pulled me out from the car and pushed me to the ground while they pointed a revolver at me, snatched my phone away and threatened to take my life,” he said. “All of them started beating me, and I started to bleed form my mouth and nose.”
The extremists later sprinkled gasoline over him to burn him alive.
“I was fearful, and I started feeling convulsive, but then and there I started praising Jesus and praying, and my attackers became angrier as they continued to beat, kick and punch me, told me to shut up, spat on my face and urinated on me,” he said. “How I survived such an attack is miraculous. I see the love and the faithfulness of God more through this incident.”
He went unconscious in a pool of blood. Thinking that that he was dead, the extremists put the pastor back into the car and deposited him at another isolated area. After 15 minutes, however, they gathered him up again and dropped him near his village, he said.
A passer-by found him, poured water on his face and revived him, and then helped him to call friends.
“When we arrived at the roadside where he was taken care of, he was still bleeding profoundly from his nose, mouth and ears, and he fell unconscious again on the way to the hospital,” Kamble said.
The pastor was taken to Kharghar Medicity Hospital, but due to the severity of his injuries, he was later admitted in Navi Mumbai Municipal Hospital, Vashi.
Police registered a First Information Report against the attackers and on Oct. 16 arrested the leader of the assailants, Mumbaikar, church leaders said. They said there was no case of forceful conversion against the five Christians, as they were simply handing out pamphlets to those who wished to take them.
“We pray for people on their request, and people come to the church by their own free will,” Pastor Bhatnager said. “We never force or lure anyone to believe in Christ as they wrongly accused us.”
The Christians were not able to lead a prayer convention (Prarthana Sabha) scheduled for Oct. 17 because of the attack.
India ranked 17th on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
(Agenzia Fides) – “There is growing intolerance and hostility toward small Pentecostal Christian communities, that are not allowed to do what is guaranteed by constitutional guarantees”: says to Agenzia Fides Sajan K. George, president of the global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), recalling the recent episodes of violence suffered by Protestant Pentecostal Pastors.
On August 20, Pastor Roy of the “Sharon Fellowship Church Town” was pelted with stones by extremists in Kodungallur, in the state of Kerala. Pastor Roy explained that, over the last five years, during the Sunday liturgies there have always been tension due to the presence of fanatical Hindus militants who want to stop the celebrations.
In another recent incident, in Bangalore, Karnataka, on August 18, a 26-year-old evangelist Christian leader of the Thadou Christian Fellowship Church was attacked and punched by five men, after paying a visit to his friend to lead a prayer meeting.
According to the Pentecostal communities, these attacks are on the rise. Speaking to Fides, Sajan K. George said: “Pastors are not doing anything illegal, or causing problems of public order or security. It is the militants who carry out gratuitous violence on innocent Christians. It is up to the state to give an institutional response, to stop the violence, ensure the rule of law”.
India: 8th anniversary of worst incidence of Anti-Christian violence, Christians still waiting for justice
On August 25, 2008, nearly 200 villages in Kandhamal were attacked and forced 30,000 people to flee the East-Indian state of Odisha. 300 churches and approx. 5,600 houses were looted and burned to the ground. 2,000 people were reportedly forced to renounce their Christian faith and more than 10,000 children had their education disrupted. The violence against the Christian community in Kandhamal led to the death of about 100 Christians, although the government figures put the figure at 39.
Though incident reports were filed, police investigations were not thorough, cases prematurely closed and offenders not prosecuted. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India said the state needed to re-investigate 315 cases of communal violence from 2008.
“The minorities are as much children of the soil as the majority and the approach has been to ensure that nothing should be done, as might deprive the minorities of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, of a consciousness of equality and of the awareness that the conservation of their religion, culture, language and script as also the protection of their educational institutions is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution… it can, indeed, be said to be an index of the level of civilisation and catholicity of a nation as to how far their minorities feel secure and are not subject to any discrimination or suppression,” read that ruling.
Anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal is not uncommon and Christians in the district have been subject to hate campaigns by Hindu fundamentalists since the 1960s. The violence in 2008 was sparked by the killing of prominent Hindu and the media and police suggested a Maoist group could have been behind the death, however Hindu fundamentalists blamed the Christian community.
India’s Christian communities are tense as violence against them has been on the rise. Please pray for them.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:
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P.O. Box 122
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A team of politicians and human rights activists who toured Chhattisgarh has reported several cases of violence against Christians in the eastern Indian state.
“Christians live in an appalling situation in rural areas where local laws meant for their welfare and protection are used to harass and divide the people on the basis of religion,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, who was part of the team that included former lawmakers.
After touring Chhattisgarh June 8-11, the team released a report saying how the state government failed to help Christians in villages oppressed by Hindu nationalists.
Several villages in Baster district for example have against the spirit of the Indian Constitution restricted non-Hindus from residing or building places of worship in those villages, the report said.
Christians are even being prevented from using burial grounds in several villages, it said.
In Sirisguda village, Christians were not allowed to buy grocery from the government’not s public distribution system and were beaten up, the report said. After the attack, the ambulance was not allowed in the village and injured Christians allowed to get treatment in the district hospital.
Christians are also not allowed to use common water sources in villages and district officials insisting that Christians must convert to Hinduism or leave the village. “We have come across innumerable examples of Christians under pressure to change their religion, in gross violation of constitutional provisions,” Krishnan told ucanews.com READ MORE
(Agenzia Fides) – Beaten and stripped naked in the street: is the fate of the Christian Pentecostal Indian citizen attacked in the state of Bihar because he preached faith in Christ publicly. As reported to Fides by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the incident occurred in the district of Patna, capital of Bihar. The Christian Deepak Kumar had stopped in front of Barh railway station and started to speak publicly of Christ, proclaiming his Gospel to who wanted to listen to him.
Suddenly ten militants, allegedly belonging to Hindu extremist groups, approached and started to beat and insult him, leaving him on the ground half naked and wounded. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has condemned the violence and told Fides: “These men have committed a crime and must be stopped. Kumar was not doing anything illegal: he was simply talking to people, exercising a freedom enshrined in the Constitution. The law is equal for everyone: even Christians are Indian citizens”.
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A church in India’s Chhattisgarh state was attacked by Hindu nationalists during the March 6 Sunday service.
According to International Christian Concern, a mob of 25 Hindus attacked a Pentecostal church in Kachana colony in the state capital of Raipur. The mob burst into the church and began beating the congregation; the mob also destroyed musical instruments, chairs and Bibles.
Reportedly the Hindus had justified their attack by claiming that the church was the site of forced conversions.
“The vandalizing of the church [in Chhattisgarh] comes as the entire nation of India is debating the role of [radical Hindu nationalism] and the government in exacerbating an environment of hate and intolerance against civil society, the intelligentsia, and above all, religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians,” John Dayal, Spokesman for the United Christian Forum, told ICC.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said: “The attack on the church in Raipur is just one more sign of the growing religious intolerance in India. Hindu radicals, who continue to go unchecked by the government, are dividing India along religious lines and labeling religious minorities, including Christians, as inferior and anti-India….”
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:
2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183
(Morning Star News) – A pastor in northern India who was beaten and paraded through streets with his head half-shaved as crowds called for him to be cut to pieces said he is thankful that he was counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.
On Friday (Jan. 29) Hindu extremists posing as policemen picked up Avdhesh Savita, a 35-year-old father of four, from his home in Rendhar village in Uttar Pradesh state and took him to Orai, Jalaun District. They beat him, shaved half of his head, one eyebrow and one side of his moustache, and put him on a donkey as they led him in a procession through Orai.
They and others in the frenzied crowd mocked him, falsely accusing him of forcible conversion.
“The mob that was parading me was shouting, ‘Kill him, cut him in pieces,’ but I kept telling them that faith unites, it does not divide,” Savita told Morning Star News. “I told my tormentors that I believe in Christ out of my own freewill, and that I have never hurt anyone, but they just did not listen to me.”
The assailants were reportedly members of Yuvavahini (Youth Brigade), a Hindu nationalist group, and took him to the head office of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal in Orai, where others joined in the abuse.
“I kept praying throughout the ordeal, I am not afraid of dying,” Savita said. “I thought, ‘This is the day when I will stand before my Savior.’ But I also thought of my children, they are young, and that was my only concern. In the Lord I am persecuted, I am thankful for this privilege.”
The extremists picked up Savita, who became a Christian four years ago, in Rendhar, about 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Orai, in what appeared to be a police Jeep, and told him to come along for questioning, he said. Like him, his family members believed the men who came were policemen though they were in civilian clothes.
“They started hitting me once I was in the Jeep and continued hitting me on the way,” he told Morning Star News, in anguish. “They took me to the Bajrang Dal head office in Orai, where they hit me with their legs and fists, verbally abused me with the filthiest of language, shaved half my head, removed one eyebrow completely and half shaved my moustache. They then put me on a donkey and paraded me for about a half hour.”
The Hindu extremists took his jacket, which had money in it, and his mobile phone, said Savita, a poor lay pastor from the Dalit “untouchable” class that is lower than any of the Hindu caste levels.
Savita has two daughters, 16 and 14 years old, and two sons, 11 and 8.
The attack was rooted in the alleged instigator deciding to take vengeance on Savita because the pastor refused his request to give him money for alcohol and tobacco, a Christian leader said.
When Savita went to a Christian program in Varanasi from Dec. 18 to 23, Sangam Jatav was among three men from his village who had shown an interest in attending and accompanied him, the Rev. Daniel Inbaraj of the Mizpah Ministries told Morning Star News.
“On the fourth day of the program, Sangam Jatav asked Pastor Avdhesh for some money to buy alcohol and tobacco,” Pastor Inbaraj said. “When Avdhesh refused, he got furious. After returning from the program, Sangam Jatav went to Avdhesh’s house, threatened him and demanded money.”
Jatav demanded 20,000 rupees (US$294), saying that if Savita refused he would spread rumors that the pastor had tried to fraudulently convert him, and that he would get Bajrang Dal members to beat him, Savita said. Jatav subsequently called the Bajrang Dal, saying Savita had “converted him without his knowledge” and made him eat beef and desecrate photographs of Hindu gods by walking on them.
Jatav leveled the accusations in interviews with television stations, Pastor Inbaraj said.
“During the interviews, he alleged that the Christians forced him to eat beef, locked him in a room with the other two who had accompanied Avdhesh and him to the program, and forced him to walk on pictures of Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman,” he said. “He also alleged that he was given 5,000 Indian rupees to become a Christian. But when the other two were quizzed by the police, they denied any such accusation.”
The other two men who attended the Christian program, Sunil Jatav and Ravi Saxena, said that they were never forced to eat beef, and that only vegetarian food was served, Pastor Inbaraj said.
“They did say that they attended religious discourses but denounced the claim of Sangam Jatav that they were forcibly converted,” he said. “‘We went to the program and came back safe,’ they said.”
Jatav was arrested on Sunday (Jan. 31) and remains in jail, police officials told Morning Star News. Three cases are registered against him, including one of attempted murder in connection with the attack on Savita, they said.
Orai Senior Inspector Alok Sinha told Morning Star News that nine Bajrang Dal members have been arrested, but he declined to give any more information, except to say that police were searching for other members.
Pastor Inbaraj said he would raise the issue of Hindu extremists using what appeared to be a police Jeep with the superintendent of police.
The Rev. Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesperson of the Roman Catholic Delhi Archdiocese, called the attack a “glaring example of the impunity” that Hindu extremist groups enjoy under the federal government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“We demand a reply from the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], the parent body and the government,” he said.
John Dayal, spokesman for the United Christian Forum, told Morning Star News that election time in India seems to breed even more Hindu nationalist violence than that which takes place in provinces and towns where elections are not imminent.
“Uttar Pradesh, which is preparing for its legislative assembly elections, has seen considerable Hindutva activity in recent months, with both Christian and Muslims as its victims,” he said. “The state government, which is not controlled by the BJP, seems complicit on this violence.”
At the very least, Dayal said, the state government has failed to act on complaints.
“This blatant attempt to terrorize the community in the guise of protesting conversions is a case in point,” he said. “Uttar Pradesh does not have laws banning [fraudulent or forced] conversion such as exist in the states of Orissa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and three others. And yet both these Hindutva gangs and the police seem to believe that even the profession and propagation of faith is illegal. We condemn this manifestation of religious terrorism and call upon the state and Union governments to take strict action against it. Policemen guilty of complicity or impunity need also to be identified and brought to book.”
Two First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered against 150 to 200 unknown people at Orai and Rendhar police stations. The FIRs also name 13 people, including Jatav, who has been charged with attempt to murder (Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code), voluntary causing hurt (323), intentional insult to provoke breach of peace (504) and criminal intimidation (506) at Orai Police Station; and cheating by impersonation (419), cheating and dishonesty (420), punishment for extortion (384), impersonating a public servant (170) and public mischief with intent to incite (505) at Rendhar Police Station.
One FIR also names Akhilesh Dhiya, district convenor of Bajrang Dal at Jalaun. He has been charged with house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint (452), punishment for dacoity (395), kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person (365), promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion (153A), criminal intimidation (506), voluntary causing hurt (323) and punishment for defamation (500). Dhiya is absconding, and the police have yet to find him.
After the ordeal, Savita spent a night at the police station for interrogation and was released the next day when local Christian leaders intervened.
Living in Fear
Savita have moved to his parents’ place at a different village out of fear over his family’s safety. Because his wife and family must care for two animals, they cannot leave the village, he said. If the family left the area, they would have to sell their animals.
“My three elder children have stopped going to school, as they are very fearful,” he said. “We fear that they too might be kidnapped or insulted in the same manner.”
His brother, Mukesh Savita, said the attack seemed to be well-planned.
“My brother is in shock, but what can we do?” he said. “We are in a minority, we are Dalits. Even my family is very afraid. These people who did this to my brother are criminals, and till they are all arrested, we will not be able to live in peace.”
Village onlookers also mistook the assailants for policemen, he added.
“It would have been better if they had shot him,” he told Morning Star News. “This humiliation is a lot worse than death.”