Indian authorities jailed church leaders and their families after Hindu extremists disrupted a worship service, beat individuals, and livestreamed the events on Facebook in efforts to make the area “free of Christianity.”
According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, the attack took place on Sept. 8 in the Domchanch villa of Koderma District in Jharkhand state.
Dozens of assailants from the youth militant group Bajrang Dal reportedly intruded on the church service and began verbally abusing congregants before tearing up Bibles, breaking church supplies, and stealing the offering box.
Following the attack, the group’s organizer, Yadav, went live on Facebook, showing off the Christians who were forced out of their house church and onto the streets. In the video, Yadav is seen pestering women about why they attended the service and claiming that Christianity has destroyed the entire district, according to ICC.
Eventually, the police arrived, and church pastor Manohar Prasad Varnwa, his family, and a few members were forced into a police vehicle. Meanwhile, the assailants stood by, watching the Christians’ arrest. The livestream ends on Yadav’s final comment: “Our job is to make this area free of Christianity.”
According to pastor Varnwa, police and radicals forced him to sign a document promising that he would not preach the Gospel or conduct prayers.
Police denied the forced signature but admitted the team had been sent to the church when they received word that the congregation was “promoting Christianity.”
Just a week earlier, Hindu radicals attacked Pastor Varnwal and another church member and accused them of kidnapping infants. The Hindus physically assaulted the two men and then accused them of illegal conversions when Bibles were found on them.
Over the weekend, it was reported that a massive crackdown on house churches by radical Hindu groups in the Lakhimpur Khere district of Uttar Pradeshafter led to the jailing of at least eight Christians on charges of forced conversion.
Another pastor in the district named Brijraj told ICC there has been a trend of attacks on churches in the district, adding, “All the pastors in the district are on alert and the entire Christian community is in a deep despair.”
India is ranked as the 10th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List. Over 1,400 incidents of persecution against Christians in the country have been reported since the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power, according to an initiative of ADF India.
While several states in India have anti-conversion laws that criminalize conversion through allurement or other fraudulent means, such laws are often abused by Hindu nationalist groups that oppose the existence of Christian missionaries or ministries in their communities.
In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Pastor Samuel, an indigenous missionary working on the ground in India, revealed that Hindu extremists often won’t kill Christians, but they will terrorize and intimidate them, or maim or mutilate them “so they cannot live a normal life.”
“Christians are being targeted by the government; it’s seeking to halt the growth of Christianity and wipe out the church,” Samuel said.
In one instance, Hindu extremists raped the 4-year-old daughter of a pastor in central India because he refused to stop sharing the Gospel, according to Pastor Samuel.
“It’s increasing day by day,” he said. “It’s so unsafe, even for children.”