A Christian missionary and father-of-four was brutally murdered by a Maoist group in India angered by his mission work amid a rise in religious persecution across the country.
Morning Star News reports that on July 10, a Maoist group in the Gadchiroli district of India’s Maharashtra state shot and killed Munshi Dev Tado, a 28-year-old Christian convert and father of four children, ages 6, 5, 4 and 1.
Tado’s wife, Jaini Munshi Tado, told the outlet that her husband was leading worship on his property when three armed men and three women interrupted the service.
“They shook hands with him at first, then took him by his hand and, after few steps, they tied his hands at his back with a rope,” she said. “I, my father-in-law and brother-in-law followed after them, pleading and enquiring as to why they are taking him. They said they just want to talk to him and that we need not worry, they will send him back in a little while.”
“Hardly five to seven minutes later, we heard a gunshot,” she said. “We immediately ran in the direction only to find the body of my husband in the pool of his blood, and the Maoists had gone. I wept bitterly, my husband was gone.”
After killing the pastor, the Maoists left a note in Tado’s pocket claiming he was a police informant. However, when police arrived to investigate, they said Tado was not an informer for them and that they did not even know him.
According to Asia News, the pastor and his family began to suffer persecution after leaving the Maoist Naxalite movement and converting to Christianity several years ago. Villagers angered by his conversion attacked Tado’s home and threatened to kill his family on several occasions.
Tension escalated when the pastor began to lead regular worship services at his home and villagers began receiving Christ, said Pastor Vijay Kumar Vachami, a mentor and close associate of Tado.
“There were only three Christian families in the past, but this year due to the hard work of Tado, the number of families increased to 18,” he said, adding, “He was a very simple man and a very faithful servant of God. Please pray for his family that is left behind.”
Villagers had sent three letters to Maoists at different times spreading false information to instigate them against him, Vachami said, and they “pestered the Maoists to the point that they actually executed the horrendous killing.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, condemned the murder "in the strongest possible terms” and called on law enforcement to "bring the killers to justice.”
Tado’s murder marks the fourth religiously motivated killing of a Christian in India in less than two months.
In Bari village, Jharkhand state, on June 7, followers of a tribal religion abducted and killed Kande Munda, leaving his body mutilated beyond recognition.
Also in June, followers of a tribal religion in Odisha state abducted 16-year-old Sambaru Madkami for his faith before stabbing and stoning him to death.
In May, tribal Hindus in Chhattisgarh state persecuted a widowed, Christian mother of four before her body was found severely mutilated in the wilderness near her village.
A new report from the Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India documented 135 cases of persecution that occurred across India in the first half of 2020. Cases documented included lynching, community ostracization, and concerted efforts to stop worship and Gospel-sharing.
According to EFI, many cases of persecution go unreported due to fear among the Christian community, a lack of legal literacy and, the reluctance or refusal of police to register cases.
Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India, also reported 293 cases of Christian persecution in the first half of 2020.
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 countries that engage in or tolerate egregious violations of religious freedom.
USCIRF voiced concerns with how national and state governments have allowed “nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities to continue with impunity."
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 watchdog notes that persecution against Christians has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.