A Christian convert teenager in the Odisha state of India was killed last Thursday by a group of religious fanatics in the Hindu-majority country, who reportedly cut up his body into pieces, according to the interdenominational ministry Persecution Relief.
Pastor Bijay from the Malkangiri district told the nonprofit serving persecuted churches in India about how a group of suspected Hindu radicals (some of whom did not live in the village) ganged up last Thursday to kidnap Christians in the remote Kenduguda village.
As a result, seventh-grader Samaru Madkami was killed by the perpetrators, who were said to have cut his neck and crushed his head with a rock. The suspects are also alleged to have cut the teenager’s body into pieces and buried him in a pit.
Madkami’s father, Unga Madkami, is a member of Bijay’s Bethel house church who also serves as an elder in the congregation, according to Persecution Relief. He is a widower who lost his wife a few years back and was raising his children on his own.
Bijay explained that he reported to local police last Friday that the teen went missing after he was taken from the home the night prior. Madkami’s kidnapping came after a series of attacks on Christians in the area.
The father claimed in his police report filed last Friday that a group of villagers picked up Madkami at around 11 p.m. and told him that they needed him for a meeting in the jungle, according to Persecution Relief.
The suspects were alleged to have come back to the house about an hour later to try to kidnap Madkami’s father. However, they were unsuccessful as Unga Madkami was able to escape to the police station, where he filed an earlier complaint.
According to a police report filed by the victim’s father, he and his son became Christians about three years ago and faced harassment.
“Samaru was a passionate Christian,” Bijay told Persecution Relief. “He always shared from the Bible with youth and children from the village.”
Bijay added that Madkami recently told him that he would take up the ministry should anything ever happen to the pastor.
Inspector of Malkangiri police station Ramprasad Nag told Hindustan Times that Madkami’s body was exhumed three days after his killing.
According to Nag, police arrested four people thought to be connected with Madkami’s killing.
Police accused Deba Madkami, Budra Muchaki, Aaita Kabasi and Ram Madi of calling Madkami and two other boys to leave their homes on June 4 under the pretext of the so-called meeting.
The three were boys taken to the outskirts of the village to be killed, the news outlet reports.
However, Nag said two others were able to escape while Madkami was beaten to death on accusations he practiced witchcraft.
Persecution Relief Founder Shibu Thomas said in a statement that Madkami’s case is “by far” the most disturbing case of Christian persecution he has seen of the 1,500-plus cases he has been involved with throughout his career.
“The hate and aggression in the minds of the religious fanatics and the brutal nature of this crime leaves me dumbfounded!” Thomas wrote. “My mind has been gripped by the thoughts of an innocent child who desired to serve Jesus Christ, in spite of the pain and challenges of losing his mother at a very tender age. This vicious cruelty exposes the tainted mentality and attitude of religious fanatics of this day and age.”
Although Persecution Relief states that Madkami was 14 years old, the Hindustan Times reports that Madkami was 18.
India ranks as the 10th worst country in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA. Since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, Open Doors reports that incidents of persecution against Christians by Hindu nationalists have increased “with little or no consequences.”
According to Hindustan Times, killings over accusations of witchcraft are not new in Odisha and there have been at least 17 tribals killed in the last three months. In February, another tribal person from the Maklangiri district was killed by a neighbor over suspicion that he practiced black magic.
Bijay told Persecution Relief that there have been at least four other assaults against Christians in his village this year alone.
According to Bijay, there was one incident in which radicals stuffed three Christians into jute bags and tried to throw them into a river. In another incident, he said, radicals tried to set two Christians on fire.
“This frightening and contagious crusade of religious intolerance has now peaked at new inhuman levels,” Thomas stressed. “Both nationally and internationally, the government of India has been called out numerous times to introspect and arrest the intensifying antagonism towards religious minorities. Somehow, we have become accustomed with being ignored and side-lined because religious nationalism has been prioritized over the lives of the citizens.”
In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called on the U.S. State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating systemic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.
The recommendation was rejected by the Indian government, which accused USCIRF, an independent bipartisan government commission, of being “biased.”