Sunday, June 12, 2016
More attacks on Indian Christians at Sunday worship
Christian worship services and prayer meetings across India are often targeted by Hindu radicals. Last Sunday in Bihar and the Sunday before in Uttar Pradesh, worship services were disrupted by armed men who assaulted the pastors and, in Bihar, the entire congregation including women and children.
Pastor Lalta Prasad, 58, and his wife were assaulted by four masked men with wooden sticks during their church’s worship service on Sunday 29 May. The church is located in the village of Naupur, Jaunpur district, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Around 50-55 Christians were present at the church when the attack took place. Amongst those present were women, children and the elderly, all of whom escaped. The men in the church remained and attempted to rescue Pastor Lalta Prasad and his wife, but they too were attacked.
The attack lasted for 15-20 minutes, before the assailants fled on their motor bikes.
Both Prasad and his wife were taken to the police station and then to the district hospital for treatment.
Dinanath Jaiswar, a church leader from the city of Varanasi who visited the couple on Tuesday (7 June), said to Barnabas Fund, “The doctor on duty warned the couple of the consequences of getting a medical examination done and on filing a case against the assaulters on the basis of the medical test. The couple got extremely frightened and agreed not to get into further trouble and decided not to proceed with the medical examination and thus the police complaint was not filed”.
Jaiswar added, “The political pressure on the police and the medical staff is evident in this case”.
Prasad sustained internal injuries to his head, back, face, legs and muscle tissues, while his wife is unable to stand due to the many blows she received to her back. “They have been very tactfully attacked with no blood and no fractures, so that their injuries would not seem severe to the police”, said Jaiswar.
Prasad, his family and members of the church remain in shock after the attack. According to Jaiswar, “there has been no church service [since the attack] and it seems that the assaulters have been successful in their motives”.
In March this year, Prasad received threats from a group of Hindu extremists and a complaint against him was lodged with the District Magistrate (DM), falsely alleging that he was enticing Hindus into Christianity with the promise of money or employment. The DM ordered an enquiry and instructed the police to look into the matter.
The police investigated Prasad and other Christians, and submitted their report to the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) stating that, “These Christians only pray and worship; they pray in the name of Jesus and healings take place; they do not do any conversion activity.”
Jaiswar comments that “the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [a Hindu nationalist organisation] were shocked that the police were supportive of the Christians and thus they explored other means to stop Pastor Prasad from ministering to the people”.
On Sunday 5 June, a mob of 25 Hindu extremists belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) stormed into a church in the city of Patna, in the Indian state of Bihar, brutally assaulting its pastor and all those attendence, including women and children, with bamboo sticks, belts and stones. Many sustained severe injuries and were admitted to hospital. One arrest has so far been made in connection with the attack.
Meeting together in India as Christians can carry great risk.jpg
Meeting together in India as Christians can carry great risk
The incident began at around 1:30pm at the India Mission Centre at Kas Mahal, Patna, when two young men, disguised as students and living in the neighbourhood of the church, disrupted the worship service. The men argued with church members, accusing them of conversion activity. Stones and verbal abuse were thrown by the two men, who have since been identified as Vishnu Kumar and Rahul Kumar.
“The church service was disrupted by members of the ABVP disguised as students. They stormed the venue, created a disturbance and proceeded to beat the Christians present using their belts. They also pelted stones at the women and children present,” said Arun Kumar, a local church leader, speaking to Barnabas Fund.
“When Pastor Meera Rani attempted to intervene in the situation, she too was beaten up by the attackers,” Kumar added.
The attackers were soon joined by Golu Kumar and a mob of around 25 people, all from the ABVP. The Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is the student wing of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the main political power in the Indian government. ABVP is known to be violently opposed to minority groups.
“Soon a mob also came and joined the attackers. They beat the Christians present with bamboo sticks, used their belts on women and children, and pelted stones. The pastor was beaten up again,” Kumar said to Barnabas Fund. “Many of the Christians were seriously injured and had to be admitted to the local hospital for treatment and first aid”.
Kumar added, “Pastor Meera Rani suffered a fracture in one of her fingers, her back is blue with the beating and she also received a cut under her ear”.
The police are investigating the case and so far one person has been arrested, but this in itself may lead to further attacks on the church.
“The attackers have threatened the church members and the pastor that they will take revenge as one of them is under arrest,” said Arun Kumar. “The ABVP people have warned the Christians not to conduct any more worship services in the church or else next Sunday they will come with guns and swords and will kill the Christians and cut them to pieces.”
The church has approached the police for protection and they have assured them of this. However, the landlord in whose property the church has been meeting is now under pressure and has asked the church to vacate the property by Sunday (12 June). The church has been meeting together in the area for the last six years but has only been meeting at their current location for the last six months.
“Tension and fear prevails. We ask that you pray for our protection, so that we can worship in safety without fear for our lives,” pleaded Kumar.
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