A number of Christians in tribal villages in India have reportedly been punished with severe financial penalties for choosing to attend church on Easter last month, with some being forced to reconvert back to Hinduism.
International Christian Concern, which reports on the stories of persecuted Christians, shared on Saturday that believers in the Junwani village of Chhattisgarh were heavily targeted. Christians were fined $312, or almost four to five months' wages, if they were found to have attended a church service to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
ICC said that 15 Christian families were forced to reconvert back to Hinduism by village elders so that they can be accepted back into society.
One man from the families in question, Shivaram Tekam, explained that the Christians had to give livestock, money, and other gifts to the village deity during the reconversion ceremony.
Tekam explained that he will continue trying to follow Jesus Christ in his heart, however.
"They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church," he told a local pastor.
Others, such as 55-year-old Kanesh Singh, also from Junwani, refused to pay the fine and stood up to the village elders.
"What crime have I committed that I should pay the fine? I have not stolen anything. I have not defiled any woman. I have not quarreled. I have not killed anybody. If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day," Sing apparently told the leaders of the community.
Somari Komra, 40, told the elders that while they never helped him, Jesus did.
"I was suffering with physical illness and mental disorder but none of you came and helped me. Neither the village leaders nor the society helped. But Jesus made me well as I trusted in Him and started going to church. I will not stop going to church and I am ready to pay the fine and face the consequences of social boycott. If you stop me [from going to] church, then you must take the responsibility of my health," Komra told the elders.
A pastor who remained anonymous warned that Christians are going to face even more dangerous situations for standing true to their faith, however.
"The police hardly take notice of their cry. Some are bold enough to declare their faith in Jesus and are ready to face the consequences, while others, due to their vulnerability, choose to follow the Lord secretly," the pastor said.
The All India Christian Council said in a report at the end of April that attacks and persecution by Hindu radicals on Christians increased 20 percent in India in 2016, with a fresh attack being reported every 40 hours.
"The attacks have become severe and more frequent. Incidents used to be confined to a few states. Now the violence has spread to 23 states," the report stated, explaining that the attacks come in the form of physical beating, vandalism and torching of churches, burning of Bibles, death threats, or forcing Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism.
Hindu hardliners have been increasing their attacks in order to stem the growth of Christianity. Believers who have converted to the faith from Hinduism are especially targeted.
Large-scale prayer meetings of Christians, such as one involving 150 believers in April at an independent church in the Dathauli area of Maharajganj district in Uttar Pradesh, have also been shut down by authorities, who have acted upon the demands of hardline leaders and their suspicions that Hindus are being converted.