India's Christians ask: What would Gandhi do?
St. Thomas brought the faith to the subcontinent in 52 a.d. and Gandhi called for peace and plurality -- but persecution is growing.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
sources say, the radicals “beat them with their hands, feet and flashlights all the while abusing them with filthy language.”
The extremists tried to force them to sign blank papers that would have been filled in with whatever the extremists wished. When the Christians refused, Michael and Prashanto Rabha were repeatedly kicked and beaten. A blow to Michael Rabha’s left eye with a large flashlight seriously wounded him. Prashanto Rabha was hardly breathing after the assault. The extremists also injured Mala Rabha before releasing the Christians and threatening further violence if the assaults were reported to the police.
The next morning, they were admitted to Satribari Christian Hospital in Assam with serious wounds and complications. While at the hospital, their homes were looted and their cattle stolen.
Now two other families have also fled the village.
Manesor lodged a complaint with the police, asking for an investigation. Now he has received death threats from local extremists. As a result, he and Mala are unable to return home. They fear being beaten once again, this time for reporting the crimes committed against them.
Police have made no arrests.
In Karnataka, police have accused another pastor of forceful conversion after receiving complaints. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that a policeman visited the church of pastor Manjappa Byadayi from the Salvation Gospel Church and began leveling allegations that there had been many complaints of “conversion activities.”
The officer told them to report to the police station with all information about their activities. Pastor Byadayi and his wife reported to the station, where police accused them of forcible conversion of Hindus to Christianity and told them that they must stop the alleged activity immediately. Officers ordered the Christians to close down their church building and leave the area. They were told that if they did not, they would have to report their activities to the police station daily.
What are Christians doing? Cowering in fear? No, reports say. Services are continuing. A recent sermon centered not on how to barricade one’s house or protect one’s property, but instead how David the Psalmist proclaimed “Sing, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.”
Meanwhile in Orissa, armed Hindu extremists attacked an evangelist who goes by the single name of Baidhar in Mitrapur village, seriously wounding him. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists attacked Baidhar while he was returning home from a prayer meeting at a Christian’s home in the village.
Baidhar was bleeding heavily when rescued by Christians and taken to a nearby hospital, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians. When the radicals learned that the evangelist had been rescued, about 50 Hindu extremists mounted an attack on 12 Christian families at 8:30 p.m., seriously injuring about 20 of them. They also ransacked their houses and tore the clothes of some of the young women. The Christians approached officials for help, the Global Council reported.
And the reports keep pouring in:
On June 8 in Narayanpur village, South Kamrup, Hindu extremists beat Christians and tried to force them to reconvert to Hinduism. The Global Council reported that the Hindu extremists beat Rabha family members Bharat, Srimanto, Batiram, Matiram, Jyotish and Rubul on the street after dragging them from their homes. The Christians were told to renounce Christianity and to forget about Jesus.
The extremists compelled Hindu villagers to take oaths that no Christians would be allowed to enter or remain in their homes in the village, according to the Global Council. Police have visited the site and registered a report against the attackers. On the same day in nearby village of Deupani, Hindu extremists tried to force Bhageswar, Durgeswar and Rana Rabha to return to Hinduism along with their families after beating them up and looting their properties.
Sources told Compass Direct that the enraged extremists threw Bhageswarn, Rana and Motiram Rabha out of their homes and destroyed the structures as well as their church. The extremists also cut down their vegetation and looted their grains, cattle and poultry. The Christians fled the area in fear.
In Bacheli, Dakshin Bastar, the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that Hindu extremists disrupted a funeral service and beat Christians resulting in the hospitalization of nine. EFI reported that the extremists, armed with sharp-edged weapons and clubs, shouted anti-Christian slogans as they stormed the funeral attended by about 100 people from the Bastar for Christ Movement Church.
The assailants threatened the Christians and beat them repeatedly. In order to thwart the burial of the deceased, a 19-year-old identified only as Soni, the extremists filled the open grave with dirt. Loved ones later buried the corpse elsewhere after police told them they were unable to provide security for burial in the village. Police registered a report against the attackers, but no arrests were made.
In Beltokri, Gariyaband, about 20 Hindu extremists disrupted the Sunday worship service of an independent house church led by Pastor Ankush Bariyekar. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that the extremists suddenly barged in and verbally abused, threatened and beat the Christians meeting in the house of Santosh Sahu. Pastor Bariyekar and another Christian, Ram Sahu, were injured, according to the EFI. The Christians opted to file no complaint.
In Himachal Pradesh, police ordered a pastor to vacate his home and confiscated his ministry identity card after Hindu extremists from the group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh stormed into a prayer meeting he was leading and beat another Christian.
The All India Christian Council reported that about 40 extremists stopped the prayer meeting led by Pastor Jai Masih Topno. When police arrived, they did not arrest the extremists, but took Topno and three other Christians, two women and a man, into police custody.
Police did not file charges against the preacher, but ordered him to vacate his home within two days and leave the area, according to the AICC. Police told Topno he could recover his identity card after he vacated his residence.
Hindu extremists burned a church building in Shelanagar, Vizag. The All India Christian Council reported that the Seyonu Prarthana Mandhiram Church building in Shelanagar was burned after local leaders pressured Christians to vacate the land. Some local leaders, claiming the church land belonged to them, had been pressuring the church to give up the property. Narendra Babu, the leader of the local Christians, had started fencing the land around the church building to forcibly stake his claim, according to the AICC.
The pastor filed a police complaint and two weeks later the church building was damaged in the fire.
The violence continues, virtually ignored by the international press.
Meanwhile India’s Christians ask “what would Gandhi do?”