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Pastor in India Locked in Room and Left to Die

Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, Buddhist site venerated by both Buddhists and Hindus in Bihar state, India. (Creative Commons, Ineb-2553)

India (Morning Star News) – The last thing pastor Shelton Vishwanathan recalled happening before he lost consciousness in a village in northeast India was Hindu extremists threatening to offer him as a sacrifice to their god as they belted his head.

“They punched my back and told me that they would offer me as a sacrifice to their deity as a punishment for distributing gospel tracts,” he told Morning Star News. “They struck severe blows on my head, so that I soon fainted.”

When the six radical Hindus first stopped him and told him to quit handing out tracts in Tiryani village, in Bihar state’s Sheohar District on Oct. 5, he had told them “Fine” and was about to go on his way when one of them seized the keys from his scooter, took away his phone and signaled the others to attack him, he said.

When he regained consciousness, he found himself locked in a dark room.

“I shouted for help, cried loud hoping someone would hear my cries and come to help me, but nobody could hear me,” Pastor Vishwanathan said. “I was lying down on the floor without food or water for the next few days. They did not give me anything to eat or drink.”

Seven days later, an elderly woman who lives nearby heard his cries and knocked on the door, he said.

“She told me that the door was bolted from outside and that she would open it for me on the condition that I would not tell anyone that she opened it,” said Pastor Vishwanathan, who leads a house church of 18 people. “She was very scared that if the assailants found out that she opened the door, she would also land in trouble.”

He explained what had happened and told her he would starve and die there if she did not open the door, the pastor said. She took him out of the room and later gave him food and water.

“Had she not helped, I would not be alive today,” he said. “I fully believe that it was God who sent her to help me.”

After returning to his home in Sheohar with strangers helping him to find his way by foot, he learned from neighbors that his family had searched for him throughout the district. Frightened, the family members sold some furniture in order to make it to his wife’s hometown in Nepal. Bihar state borders Nepal.

The assailants had taken his phone – which contained his in-laws’ phone number – and Pastor Vishwanathan had no money to make a phone call. Neighbors offered him food, some money and an old cell phone, but for weeks he could not reach his wife. With help from other Christians, eventually he was able to make contact and pay for his family to return home on Nov. 28.

Through the intervention of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India, senior pastors from Patna, capital of Bihar state, offered their assistance, suggesting he file charges against the attackers, he said.

“But I did not want to pursue a case against the assailants,” Pastor Vishwanathan said. “I had come under attack several times for leading a home church and sharing the gospel in villages but survived only because of God’s grace. Even in the past, the police warned me that there is a threat to my life. As the Navratri [Hindu festival] celebrations were in full swing, if I was found again the assailants might have really offered me as a sacrifice to the deity.”

Eight Hindu extremists in Sheohar District had attacked him on June 23, 2019, pushing him off his scooter and breaking his hand and foot as they beat him.

Violence against Christians in Bihar state has increased in the past two years, with attacks on house churches and pastors happening weekly, sources said. Many of those attacked choose not to call police, as officers are often complicit in Hindu extremist aggression.

Pastor Vishwanathan has had to vacate his home.

“The landlord of our rented home got to know that I was locked up in a room for a week, and he told me that he cannot risk the lives of others by letting me stay in the house knowing there is a threat to my life,” he said. “He issued an ultimatum to vacate the house.”

With financial help from Christian groups, he was able to find another rented house, he said. The assailants took his motor-scooter, and as he bought it used and has no vehicle documents, police have told him there is no way to find it.

The pastor hopes to continue distributing tracts.

“I am overjoyed to see the Lord’s hand in every situation over the past two months,” Pastor Vishwanathan. “My family who thought I must have been lost and died have returned to see me alive. We give thanks and praises to the Lord.”

 

Villagers Burn Home, Beat Wife of Former Muslim Sheikh in Eastern Uganda

Mbulakyaalo Badawuyi of eastern Uganda was beaten for refusing to renounce his faith, and his home was burned. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – A former sheikh (Muslim teacher) in eastern Uganda who secretly became a Christian on Christmas Day decided to tell his two wives about his new faith last month.

Marijan Olupot invited his pastor to his home in Obokora village, Obokorasub County, Kibuku District on the evening of May 14. He then revealed his Christian faith to his wives and called on the pastor to explain the gospel so that the church leader could lead his family to faith in Christ, Olupot told Morning Star News by phone.

One of his wives put her faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, and the other declined, he said.

Three weeks later, the wife who had declined left the household and told a Muslim leader of the family’s conversion to Christianity, including three children. The Muslim leader then told other Muslims that their sheikh had left Islam, Olupot said.

Muslim villagers on June 8 surrounded Olupot’s house at about 11:30 p.m. and set it ablaze, he said. Olupot, his wife and three children ages 10, 12 and 14 fled through a back door.

“Unfortunately as we were fleeing in the night, the attackers managed to get hold of my wife and beat her with sticks, injuring her left hand and back and the right leg, but thank God my Christian neighbors rescued her,” Olupot told Morning Star News. “As we were fleeing, I heard one of the Muslims, named Hamuza, calling out that the house should be completed destroyed.”

His wife was in stable condition after neighbors rushed her to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, he said. He and his family have taken refuge in the home of another pastor while she continues to undergo treatment.

“We need prayers at this trying moment, as the Muslims are out to kill me,” Olupot told Morning Star News. “My other wife is scheming for my death.”

Olupot, who came to Christian faith after a business colleague told him about Christ, said the fire destroyed valuables and other belongings in his home worth about 10 million shillings (US$2,670).

Christian Beaten, House Burned

Also in Kibuku District, hard-line Muslim residents of Kasasira on May 25 beat a Christian convert and burned his home for refusing to renounce Christ, he said.

Mbulakyaalo Badawuyi, 27, of Kasasira West Cell, Kasasira West Ward said a group of area Muslims he knew knocked on his door at about 7 p.m., and he refused to open.

“They destroyed the door and made entry, but I escaped through the rear door,” Badawuyi told Morning Star News by phone. “They followed me and got hold of me and began beating me up. Neighbors came when I screamed for help.”

A neighbour took him to a nearby medical clinic, he said. As he was being treated, he said, the same Muslims – identified as Nabutono Saida, Kulemuzamiru, Kapesa Musitafa, Ganda Amisi and Mugooda Abudallah – returned to his house and set it on fire, he said.

Badawuyi said he came to faith on Aug. 4, 2019 after a dream about Christ when he fell asleep during night prayers with other sheikhs and Muslims at a mosque.

“I fell asleep and had a dream that Isa [Jesus] told me that I was in a wrong place, and that therefore I was to go and look for His shepherds who will teach me all His holy words, then after learning go and preach those words to others,” he said.

During the dream he heard people shouting “Hallelujah!” he said.

“In the dream I also repeated the same, and this made me shout in the mosque, ‘Hallelujah!’” Badawuyi told Morning Star News. “The sheikhs and other Muslims who heard me shouting were very astonished, and one came and asked me that why are you shouting that hallelujah? I answered him that I have seen Jesus. As he called others to come and hear, I jumped out and took off, and since it was night they couldn’t get me.”

He went to a pastor who prayed for him, and he put his faith in Christ, he said.

The attacks in Kibuku District were the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

Christian Boy, 16, Stabbed and Stoned to Death for His Faith in Eastern India

Sambaru Madkami, 16, was killed in Odisha state, India. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – Incited by Hindu extremists, followers of traditional tribal religion in eastern India last week stabbed and stoned a 16-year-old Christian boy to death for his faith, sources said.

The mutilated body of Sambaru Madkami was found on Friday (June 5) buried in the jungle of Malkangiri, about six kilometers (less than 4 miles) from his village of Kenduguda, Malkangiri District, Odisha state. The village animists had seized him on Thursday night (June 4) after deciding to kill the male heads of the three Christian families in the village, area sources said.

“They had come for me,” Sambaru’s father, Unga Madkami, told Morning Star News, “but I was not at home. I had taken my daughter who was sick to the doctor.”

Living at home instead of the hostel of his school in Bhejaguda because of a COVID-19 lockdown, Sambaru had been leading daily meetings of a house church whose founding pastor, living in another town, dared to appear only twice a month due to villagers’ growing opposition. The only three Christian families in the village of 210 families met at Sambaru’s house.

“Sambaru knew the Word of God the most from among us,” his cousin told Morning Star News. “So he was the one who led us in a time of prayer and learning from the Bible every day in his house.”

Abduction

Some seven to 10 villagers came to his family’s home at about 11 p.m. on June 4 and called for his father, said an area resident whose name is withheld for security reasons.

As Sambaru’s father was staying overnight at a relative’s house en route to the hospital several miles away where he was taking his daughter for treatment, the villagers abducted Sambaru, the source said.

“They took him a few meters further, where a huge mob was waiting for him,” the eyewitness told Morning Star News, translated from the tribal language by an area pastor. “They tied his hands and started to beat him.”

The assailants then went to the house of Sambaru’s cousin, like his father also named Unga Madkami, and called for him, but his wife stopped him from going out and urged him to run for his life toward the jungle, the cousin told Morning Star News.

The attackers then called out to the third Christian male targeted, 18-year-old Sukka Padiami, who jumped out his back window and fled toward the jungle.

“Both I and Sukka ran all night across the jungle,” Sambaru’s cousin told Morning Star News. “We ran for almost 20 kilometers [12 miles] and then called our pastor, who directed us to go to his friend’s house, and we took refuge there.”

Murder

“The villagers were instigated to attack the Christians at the behest of Hindu extremists,” said area pastor Bijay Pusuru, a close friend of Sambaru’s family.

The assailants dragged Sambaru six kilometers from the village to the jungle, “completely” ripping off the skin on his back, Pastor Pusuru said, citing information from an autopsy report.

Sambaru’s village house church pastor, Inga Madkami, said information from police and the autopsy report indicated the assailants broke the young Christian’s legs and hands, put him in a sack and stabbed him with a knife.

“Several knife stabs are visible on his back, we were told,” Pastor Madkami said.

The autopsy indicated the assailants untied the knotted sack, tore open Sambaru’s mouth from both sides and smashed his face with a huge stone, the pastors said.

“His eyes, nose and face were not visible,” said Pastor Pusuru, sobbing. “It was all smashed.”

The autopsy indicated that the killers then struck the back of Sambaru’s head with a stone before slitting his throat, the pastors said.

“They dug a shallow pit and put his dead body there and covered it with mud and leaves,” Pastor Pusuru told Morning Star News.

Arrest and Confession

Police arrested six people after Sambaru’s cousin filed a complaint, and two of the suspects, Deba Madkami and another whose identity is unclear, confessed to the kidnapping and murder and led officers to Sambaru’s body, according to Inspector Ram Prasad Nag, the investigating officer who is also Station Head Officer of the Malkangiri police station.

“At the confession of two of the arrested, we were able to trace Sambaru’s mutilated body,” Nag told Morning Star News. “We are still in the process of investigation, and with new facts surfacing, the sections of the FIR [First Information Report] are being changed accordingly.”

FIR No. 180, registered on Friday (June 5), names four suspects – Deba Madkami, Budra Muchaki, Aaita Kabasi and Ramu Madi.

Police found Sambaru’s body at 7 p.m. on Friday (June 5) but didn’t recover and transport the body away until the next morning. After the autopsy, Sambaru’s family buried his body at a funeral service officiated by Pastor Pusuru on Saturday (June 6) in the deceased’s native Kenduguda, under police supervision at 9 p.m., Pastor Madkami said.

Sambaru’s cousin stated in his police complaint that Sambaru was abducted and killed for his Christian faith, but those arrested told officers that they killed him because he and the other targeted Christians were practicing “black magic,” according to Nag.

“In the last few weeks, 15 people have died due to various reasons in the village,” Nag told Morning Star News. “Some had swelling in their hands and legs; the villagers were suspecting Unga [Madkami, Sambaru’s father] to be involved in black magic and witchcraft.”

Sambaru’s relatives roundly denied the allegations, reiterating that the motive for the killing was, in the words of one, “purely our Christian faith.”

Mobbing villagers appeared little restrained by the arrests.

“Killing Sambaru was not enough, the villagers gathered together [on Friday, June 5] and decided to kill all the members of the three Christian families,” Pastor Pusuru told Morning Star News.

All members of the three Christian families had to lock their homes and flee from the village, he said.

To celebrate the gruesome murder, the villagers prepared a feast, Sambaru’s anguished cousin said.

“Villagers the next day looted one of Sambaru’s pigs and two quintals [about 440 lbs.] of rice from his house and went to the jungle, where they cooked the pig and the rice and celebrated ‘Odia Bhoji’ [a festival showcasing food from the Odisha state],” he said.

False Propaganda

Local media have repeated the false allegation of “black magic” as the motive for the killing, which in the minds of many villagers justifies horrific murder.

Pastor Pusuru said contaminated drinking water led to the recent deaths in the village, as local news channels had reported prior to the killing. The accusation of Christians practicing black magic as the cause of the deaths was later fabricated as an attempt to justify the killing, he said.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), said his heart grieves with the family.

“The manner in which Sambaru was killed was most gruesome,” Lal told Morning Star News. “A promising young life was snuffed out because of the hatred that seems to have permeated the very soul of this nation, seeping into the very grassroots.”

The attempt to shame the victim evident in made-up stories of witchcraft is an indicator of the hostility that persists against the minority Christian community in India, he said.

“I know that Sambaru’s sacrifice will not be in vain – only God can bring good out of it, and my prayer is that He will,” Lal said.

Pastor Madkami, 27, who began visiting Kenduguda in 2018 and was leading Sunday and Friday fellowships in Sambaru’s house, said villagers had threatened him many times, telling him to stop visiting their village for prayer and fellowship.

“They planned to attack me several times, but somehow God saved me,” Pastor Madkami told Morning Star News. “I used to be very scared to go to their village. Though our scheduled meetings were on every Sunday and Friday, there were months when I only went twice a month on Fridays, fearing attack from the villagers.”

The church would worship silently, refraining from singing, and he would visit for only 30 minutes and leave immediately, he said.

“The complete village was against the Christian families and threatened them every now and then, trying to force them to leave Christianity,” Pastor Madkami told Morning Star News.

For his part, Pastor Pusuru said he had complained twice at the Malkangiri police station about rising threats against the Christians in the village, without effect.

Remembrance

“At such a young age, Sambaru had great zeal for God and for ministering to God’s people,” Pastor Pusuru said, in tears.

Pastor Madkami said Sambaru was a great soul.

“Sambaru was my church youth leader,” he said. “He was selected for children’s ministry as well. He would minister to the children whenever he came to my home church.”

Shibu Thomas, founder of advocacy and aid group Persecution Relief, said the murder has exposed the mentality and attitude of religious fanatics today.

“This by far has to be the most disturbing case of Christian persecution that I have encountered in the past four years,” Thomas told Morning Star News. “I am dumbfounded at the brutal nature of the crime.”

Dibakar Parichha, secretary for the Diocesan Commission for Justice Peace and Development from the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, said it is not acceptable that such crimes continue to happen during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government should take the toughest action towards the perpetrator of the crime so that peace can be brought to the locality,” he said.

Lal said EFI’s Religious Liberty Commission has chronicled at least 10 incidents of persecution against Christians in Odisha state this year.

On June 11, two lawyers from the Human Rights Law Network visited Sambaru’s family, as well as the two other targeted Christians, and recorded their statements. The HRLN team aided by local lawyers expects to petition the High Court of Odisha for a high-level inquiry into the case.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on April 28 urged the U.S. State Department to add India as a “Country of Particular Concern” to its list of nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.

Muslim Father in Uganda Burns Daughter for Becoming Christian

Some of the burns on Rehema Kyomuhendo, recovering in hospital in Mbale, Uganda. Photo: Morning Star News

(Morning Star News) – Unable to return to her home in western Uganda due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Rehema Kyomuhendo was in the eastern part of the country when she first heard about Christ.

In March she had accompanied her father, a sheikh (Muslim teacher) on a business trip from Mbarara District to Mbale District, 492 kilometers (305 miles) away, and began listening to Christian programing aired on an FM radio station. They were still at her aunt’s house in Nawuyo village, Mbale District, on May 4 when at 10 p.m. she called a business friend of her father’s whom she knew to be a Roman Catholic.

“She explained to me about Christ and the way of salvation, and I got convicted and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” Kyomuhendo told Morning Star News by phone. “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed, and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.”

Her father, Sheikh Hussein Byaruhanga Husain of Mbarara District, shouted at his 45-year-old sister who was sleeping in another room, telling her that his daughter had converted to Christianity and that therefore he was going to kill her, Kyomuhendo said.

He quickly broke a jerrican, lit the pieces with its remaining fuel and began burning her, a source who spoke with Kyomuhendo told Morning Star News. Kyomuhendo screamed for help, and her aunt got out of bed and shielded her from her father, the source said.

“She carried her outside of the room together with a Christian neighbor who arrived,” the source said. “The neighbor arranged for a taxi-van that took her to a hospital, and she got immediate treatment.”

Kyomuhendo is expected to remain at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital more than a month with serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back, he said.

“Please pray for Kyomuhendo for a quick recovery on her hospital bed,” the source said.

Kyomuhendo and the neighbor have not reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her, he said.

The attack was the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

INDIA: Karnataka Christian hospital official arrested for proselytising

(AsiaNews) – Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical Hindu group, on Monday stormed the Sanjo Hospital, Mandya district (Karnataka), and beat up Simon George, a public relations officer, and Sister Nirmal Jose the hospital administrator.

The extremists claim that the two denigrated Hindu deities. Instead of helping the victims of the attack, police took Simon George into custody. He applied for bail but the court turned him down.

For Fr Josekutty Kalayil, who takes care of the hospital’s legal affairs, the incident stems from the hospitalization on Sunday of an elderly Hindu with high blood pressure.

Just before he was discharged, the man asked why there was a Bible in his room. Simon George, who was doing a routine tour, replied that he could read it if he was interested. This was followed shortly afterwards by the attack.

According to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the hospital was attacked because it is run by Christian religious, even though it serves everyone, regardless of faith or caste.

“Christian missionaries who work in the medical and educational field are targeted every day by extremists who try to discredit their altruistic work, which is to get people the ‘beneficial touch’ of Jesus,” George explained.

In his view, the charges against the Sanjo Hospital staff are false. “There is nothing criminal or illegal about keeping a Bible in a hospital room; no Hindu deity has been offended,” he noted.

The Christian community Mandya district is very small, about 9,000 people out of a population of 1.8 million, but it is under constant threat from extremist groups.

“Our Christian institutions serve mostly those who attack, abuse and assault us. May God forgive them for they know not what they do,” was George’s laconic comment.

India: Christian Leader in Madhya Pradesh Run Over by Motorcycles

Church leader Isaac Paulose in hospital after attack in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – Violence against Christians in India hit a new level on Tuesday (March 3) when Hindu extremists ran their motorcycles over a key evangelical leader after beating him, sources said.

Armed with bamboo rods and a thick metal chain with a heavy lock on it, the 10 Hindu nationalists in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh state beat Isaac Paulose, 48, and then ran their five motorcycles over him, fracturing one of his ribs, said Uttar Kumar Deep, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church of CEA (Christian Evangelistic Assemblies), Sehore.

Paulose, an elder at the church and Madhya Pradesh coordinator of the New India Evangelistic Association, was attacked shortly after dropping his 5-year-old son off at school that morning, Pastor Deep said.

Paulose was in his car when a Hindu nationalist on a motorcycle stopped him and told him to get out, he said.

“Unaware of his intentions and without a slightest of suspision, Isaac stepped out,” Pastor Deep said. “Suddenly others joined the biker, and all of them began to beat Isaac with bamboo logs and a chain.”

Paulose’s wife, Elizabeth Isaac, said he was stopped no more than 300 meters from their home.

“The moment he stepped out of his car, the others joined in, and they began to beat him,” Isaac said. “Accusing him of ‘converting people,’ they beat him with bamboo logs and a thick metal chain with a lock attached to its end. They scorned and ridiculed him, daring him to continue to convert people.”

Hindu extremists routinely attack Christians for “conversion,” though conversion is legal in India, and also routinely raise false accusations against them of illegal “forcible conversion.” They frequently make no distinction between the two.

The assailants threatened to kill the pastor before leaving, Pastor Deep said.

“When he lay on the ground half-dead, they drove their bikes, five in number, one after another over him, injuring him further and breaking his rib,” Pastor Deep told Morning Star News. “They scorned and taunted him, asking him to call on the name of Jesus. They also threatened to kill him if he continues to ‘convert’ people.”

Paulose also sustained injuries in his head and legs and hand, dislocating three fingers, sources said.

The assailants fled only after passers-by noticed and came to Paulose’s aid, Pastor Deep said. He said Paulose did not recognize any of those who assaulted him.

Paulose was rushed to a local government hospital, and then later that same day transferred to Bhopal Fracture Hospital, 26 miles from Sehore, in order to receive appropriate treatment, sources said.

On Friday (March 6) he underwent two surgeries on his left hand, which sustained multiple fractures, his wife said.

“He has received two stitches at the back of his head, and one stitch on his forehead,” Isaac said. “One of his ribs is fractured, for which the doctors said that nothing can be done and that he will need to take a lot of rest for the rib to heal by itself.”

Hemant Lal, a Christian leader from Bhopal, said Paulose was honored to suffer in Christ’s name.

“Brother Isaac’s condition was very bad when he was brought to Bhopal,” Lal told Morning Star News. “I was amazed at his faith. He told me he was not scared, and that there will be difficulties in doing the Lord’s work, but that he was glad that he suffered for the name of Jesus.”

Peace and Strength

Sehore police registered a First Information Report (FIR) on Tuesday (March 3) against unidentified assailants under the Indian Penal Code for criminal intimidation, damage, wrongful restraint and voluntarily causing hurt.

On Thursday (March 5) they added a section pertaining to attempted murder, Pastor Deep said.

Pastor Deep said Paulose does not engage in forced conversion.

“Such incidents should not happen with us; we are peace-loving people,” Pastor Deep said. “We do not get violent, and accusing someone of [forced] conversion without any reason and proof is not a good thing.”

Thanking all who have prayed and continue to pray for them, Paulose’s wife said she was initially shaken but is now at peace.

“Initially, I was very troubled and in a state of shock after seeing Isaac in this condition, but later the Lord gave me peace and strength,” she told Morning Star News. “It is our privilege to suffer for the Lord, and we will continue to work for the Lord. I am sure that God will reward us.”

India is ranked 10th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

VOP Note: Please pray for this brother, his family and Christians in India.

Christians Suffer Two Months of Abuse in Jail on Baseless Charges in India

Pastors Om Prakash (left) and Ajay Kumar face baseless charges in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Morning Star News)

Police find no evidence for accusations but yield to Hindu extremist pressure.

India (Morning Star News) – Three Christians in northern India spent more than two months in jail suffering abuse from other prisoners, even though police found no evidence of wrongdoing and the complainant retracted his accusation, sources said.

In Uttar Pradesh state’s Mau District, 23-year-old pastor Ajay Kumar, fellow pastor Om Prakash, 20, and another Christian, 62-year-old Kapil Dev Ram, still face fabricated charges after being released on bail late last month.

Pastor Kumar said the time they spent in jail was a “nightmare.”

“Every night was a traumatic night for us,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “We did not know when a mob would wake us in the middle of the night and torment us.”

Accused of forceful conversion by Hindu extremists who disrupted their Nov. 26 worship at Ram’s home in Daraura village, the two pastors were released on bail on Jan. 27 after two months and a day in jail. Ram was released on Jan. 29 after spending two months and three days in jail.

In spite of the ordeal, the pastors managed to explain the gospel of eternal salvation to many prisoners in their barracks, with one putting his faith in Christ.

Pastor Kumar said they faced the same kind of Hindu nationalist opposition in jail as they did outside it.

“Prisoners inside the jail showed their religious bias,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “We did not lie when our co-prisoners asked us the reason for us being in jail, and when we told them that it’s a case of [forcible] conversion, they despised us and spread the word around.”

A group of prisoners came on many nights to wake him and Ram, who were in one barrack while Prakash was in another, he said.

“They used vulgar language and asked us how much foreign money we have earned by carrying out conversions,” Pastor Kumar said. “They demanded money from us, asking us to share the supposed loot with them. And when we explained that there was no money involved, they beat me with fists and legs. They spared Kapil from beatings as he is a senior citizen and said that I have to take his share of beating as well.”

They faced continuous threats, including warnings that they would not be spared after their release, he said.

“‘We will deal with you outside the prison for carrying out conversions,’ said many of them, but we always spoke to them politely,” Pastor Kumar said. “There are things that happened to us that I cannot even share about.”

One day an influential prisoner summoned him and asked him to pray for a man who had been unable to sleep at night since his arrest months before, Pastor Kumar said.

“He will go crazy and die in the prison, I was told,” he said.

Pastor Kumar went to the man, prayed for him and began to spend time with him, he said.

“One day he broke and began to confess his sins in prayer; he started to get sleep at nights,” Pastor Kumar said. “The troublesome prisoners began to trouble this man too, questioning him as to why he has started to pray along with the Christians, to which he answered, ‘When I was upset, nobody helped me. It was Ajay who told me about Christ and comforted me.’”

The day that Pastor Kumar and Ram were about to leave jail, the man told them that he believed in Christ and wanted to follow Him, the pastor said.

“I was full of joy,” he said.

In the other barrack, Pastor Prakash was suffering from chickenpox and was quarantined for nearly two weeks. He received no medicine for his illness.

“There was no neatness inside the jail. I could not sleep for the first full month. The food was extremely bad. Only because one must survive, one had to eat,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News.

The 70 to 75 prisoners in his area came to know that he was a pastor, and he told each of them the gospel of eternal life, he said.

“I spent time in prayer for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening,” he said. “People started to come to me with their prayer requests. I shared the Good News with all the prisoners in my barrack.”

Of the nine prisoners released from his area while he was incarcerated, five said they wished to connect with him and attend his church after release, Pastor Prakash said.

“Though I went through a lot of troubles and hardships, I was happy I was inside, doing the Lord’s work,” Pastor Prakash said.

Baseless Accusation

Pastors Kumar and Prakash, who help lead Sharon Fellowship Church in Mohammadabad, Gohana about five miles from Daraura village, were visiting Ram’s home for the time of fellowship when the Hindu extremists intruded.

After the arrests on Nov. 26, three other pastors arrived at the Ranipur police station to speak to the Station Officer (SO).

One of the other pastors, Raj Kumar, told Morning Star News that the station officer said he questioned villagers who had attended the fellowship and found no evidence of forceful conversion.

“He said the people testified of the miracles that happened in their lives after attending prayer in Kapil’s house,” Pastor Raj Kumar said. “He met a lady who said that she could not conceive for 15 years and that after getting prayed for, she is six months pregnant now. The SO said that he found no ‘forceful conversions’ taking place in the village, and that these people have done nothing.”

The officer told him and the others that he would keep the Christians in custody for one night and release them after their appearance before a judge the next day, he said.

“We returned home only to learn later that a group of people from the Hindu organizations reached the police station after we left and pressured them to charge the Christians severely,” Pastor Raj Kumar said.

Police registered a First Information Report (FIR No. 236) based on a written complaint from Prakash Paasi, chief of Daraura village. The High Court in Allahabad would grant the Christians bail in January based on Paasi’s deposition in favor of the accused Christians, Pastor Raj Kumar said.

“Prakash Paasi submitted a sworn affidavit in the court that stated that he was not in a proper frame of mind due to some domestic disturbance in his family, when some people came to his house and obtained his signatures on some documents that he had no idea about,” Pastor Raj Kumar said. “He also said that he later went and enquired of the people attending the prayer meeting and learned that there was no conversion taking place, but that it was a normal prayer meeting taking place in Kapil’s house.”

The Christians posted bail of 400,000 rupees (US$5,555) each, sources said.

They were charged under Indian Penal Code sections for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, outraging religious feelings and inducing a person to believe that he will be rendered an object of the Divine displeasure, besides the charge under the religious institutions act. Under the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, they were charged under Section 3, which prohibits a religious institution from promoting disharmony, feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious communities.

Offenses under the religious institutions act are cognizable, meaning police can make an arrest without a warrant, and non-bailable as per Section 7 of the Act. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees (US$140).

“This case is not only the longest custody case in the year 2019, where the Christians have remained in jail for more than two months, but also a case where they have been strategically booked for ‘misuse of religious institutions for political and other purposes,’” Christian rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar told Morning Star News. “A lot of homework has been done before putting this section on the Christians.”

Christian leaders in Uttar Pradesh reacted strongly to the use of the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act.

“We had no clue as to what the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act meant,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News. “The police officials did not bother to explain or tell us what they have booked us under.”

A lower court initially rejected their application for bail. Morning Star News efforts to reach their attorney were unsuccessful.

According to the terms of the bail granted by the higher court, the three Christians must present themselves in court nearly every two weeks or whenever the court demands, Pastor Raj Kumar said.

“The three presented themselves before the Court on Feb. 6 and then on Feb. 20,” he said. “It is a very tedious procedure, and we do not know how many years it will take for them to prove their innocence.”

Since his arrest, Ram’s licence to run a government ration store in his village has been cancelled, Jaiswar said.

“It is heart-breaking that the only source of income of Kapil’s family has been snatched away from him,” Jaiswar told Morning Star News. “It was his livelihood.”

Hindu Pressure

As part of their regular visits to church members’ homes, pastors Kumar and Prakash had gone to Ram’s house on Nov. 26, where about 10 to 12 people were gathered for worship, when it was disrupted by members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV).

The HYV is a Hindu youth militia founded in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath, now the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

At about 11:45 a.m., seven or eight Hindu extremists charged into the house and began to video record them on their mobile phones, Pastor Kumar said. The intruders harshly questioned the women, asking what they had received for becoming Christians, he said: “Are you given money for medical treatment? Are you promised free rations? What do they give you to make you follow their faith?”

“When they began to shout at us, Kapil asked them to leave his house, objecting to the hostility they created inside his house,” Pastor Kumar said.

When pastors Kumar and Prakash left Ram’s house, they found a large crowd waiting outside. Ram’s family spoke with the Hindu extremists for more than 20 minutes, and twice when the pastors tried to leave, the extremists snatched their motorbike keys from them.

“They blamed us for carrying out forced conversion and threatened to kill us and smash our faces,” Pastor Prakash said.

The extremists continued to record videos as they tried to make the pastors confess to forcible conversion.

“They argued with the members of Kapil’s family, trying to lead them into acknowledging that they have received some kind of monetary help or any other benefit to convert to Christianity,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News.

The Hindu extremists called police, who arrived and detained the two pastors and the homeowner. Pastor Kumar said he was shocked that police allowed the extremists to shoot video of officers interrogating the Christians.

Officers took them to Ranipur police station.

“When we were still sitting in the police station, some police personnel were sent to the village to investigate about the case, who returned to report that there was no conversion taking place,” Pastor Prakash said. “A police officer made his report and booked us under a single section of the law. He was about to set us free to go home around 9 in the night when a crowd that belonged to various Hindu organizations entered the police station. They began to pressure the officer, demanding that strict action should be taken against us.”

After spending the night in custody and appearing before the judge, the next afternoon Pastor Prakash asked the station officer when he would let them go.

“He responded that he is going to put us in jail,” Pastor Prakash said. “He said, ‘We are tired of what is going on in the state – the whole state is upside-down because of this conversion matter.’”

India is ranked 10th on the Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

4 Muslims Kidnap, Beat and Rob Christian Preacher in Norway, Demanding He Convert to Islam or Die

Roar Fløttum. (Image credit: Roar Fløttum/Facebook)

(CBN) Four Muslim men attacked a street preacher after they lured him away while he was preaching and praying for the sick on a street in Trondheim, Norway last week.

According to the website Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, Roar Fløttum was approached by the men when one of them asked him to come with them to pray for a friend who had injured his foot. Instead, they took him to a nearby backyard where the men allegedly pushed him down a cellar staircase, beat him, robbed him and threatened to kill him if he did not convert to Islam.

“They told me to give them my bank card and certificate, codes, mobile, and Apple ID. They held me hostage there for an hour as they withdrew from the card,” Fløttum told Norway Today. They made about 10,000 kroner. (a little more than $1,000 in US dollars) While they kept me there, they threatened me and said they would kill me if I did not convert to Islam.”

“They wanted me to say a few words in Arabic,” he continued.  “I was scared and actually thought they were going to kill me because they said they had a knife and didn’t want witnesses.” full report

Fløttum asked on his Facebook for his friends to pray for his attackers.

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