6 Christian families in India given ultimatum: Deny Jesus or flee

Catholic devotees wear face mask attend the Holy Mass at the Saint Joseph's Church on the first day after the reopening of religious services after the government eased restrictions imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hyderabad on June 8, 2020. | NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images

Police in India have ordered six Christian families to either renounce their faith or flee their homes after they reported being brutally attacked by a radical Hindu mob. 

Joginder Bhuya, a Christian, told persecution watchdog International Christian Concern that he reported the attack to the Latehar District Police station of Jharkhand state on July 5. But instead of filing a report, officers gave Bhuya an ultimatum, saying they must either convert back to Hinduism or abandon their homes and leave the village. 

“I thought the police are there to protect and serve justice, but the police spoke exactly what the religious fanatics have been telling us,” Joginder said.

Earlier, Hindu village leaders had convened a meeting to discuss the fate of Christian villagers who had refused to renounce their Christian faith. There, it was decided that the Christians would be chased out of their homes and the village if they didn’t abandon their faith and “re-convert” to Hinduism. When the Christians refused to accept Hinduism, they were attacked.

“They tied our hands and legs with a rope,” Bhuya recalled. “All the men’s hands and legs were tied with the rope. That way they might have thought that we cannot defend ourselves. They also misbehaved with our women and kicked them all over their body. They punched us on our faces and back. It was a very pathetic and helpless situation for us.”

Bhuya managed to escape and then ran to the police station where he informed police about the attack. Around the same time, the Hindu villagers also reached the police station where they pleaded their case to officers who supported kicking the Christians out of the village.

Attacks on Christians in India have been on the rise since Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took office as prime minister in 2014.

report from the Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India has documented 135 cases of persecution against Christians in the first half of 2020. 

The group estimates that actual numbers might be much larger, but says that many instances of persecution go unreported due to fear among the Christian community, a lack of legal literacy and the reluctance/refusal of police to register cases. 

“The police have been very reluctant and slow to register FIRs in these cases involving recognizable offenses despite being duty-bound to do so under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” it notes. “Even in the cases registered with the police, most never come to court.”

In March, Christians in Uttar Pradesh state were falsely accused of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity and were subsequently brutally beaten by a drunken police officer who then ordered them to pose like Christ on the cross. 

Christian rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar from the advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom said that police in Uttar Pradesh have “time and again unleashed their anger against minorities.”

“It appears the Hindu extremist groups are closely working with the police officers to target Christian worship,” he said. 

In July, a woman in Redhadi, a village in India’s Khunti district, who had recently converted to Christianity, was brutally murdered by four youths associated with a Hindu fanatic group. 

The woman was the fifth Christian to be murdered in India in the last two months. Previous killings included a woman, a teenager, and a pastor — all targeted for their faith. The killings took place in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

India is ranked No. 10 on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. The group notes that Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences. 

“The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is viewed as non-Indian,” it says. “Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.”

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