India: Christians who refused to worship false gods beaten by tribal animists

A street in a village in India. | World Watch Monitor

Tribal animists in India brutally beat three Christian families before driving them from the village over the believers' refusal to participate in celebrations in honor of the tribal deities.

Morning Star News reports that on May 20, the family of Bhima and Devi Markham were asleep in their beds in Devkupli Para, Chhattisgarh state when a mob of 15 villagers who follow the local tribal religion broke into their home and began beating them with wooden batons.

The family was forced to flee their home while the mob vandalized their belongings and threw away their food, angered by the Christians’ refusal to participate in celebrations in honor of the tribal deities. Animists worship gods based on ancestors, spirits, and nature.

“In May, before the monsoon arrives, the tribal villages feast and drink and worship the tribal deities – Christians do not partake in these rituals,” local pastor Ramdhar Kashyap told Morning Star News.

“Such an event took place in the village in the day hours of May 20. They were feasting at a tribal villager’s house near the Christians’ homes. Infuriated by the Christians’ refusal to join them in the celebration, they attacked them that night.”

The assailants then beat Christians Chenna Markham and Joga Kunjam and their families, along with an unidentified elderly Christian woman, also driving them from their homes.

“The three families including their children and the elderly sister, a total of 14 injured Christians, fled from Devkupli Para in different directions fearing for their lives,” the pastor said.

The families traveled two miles on foot before reaching Kashyap’s home. When they arrived, they were “profusely bleeding,” according to the pastor. 

The Christians received treatment at a local hospital for a week. The pastor encouraged them to report the assaults to police, but initially, they were reluctant, as the assailants had threatened that they would be killed if the matter was reported. 

Eventually, police summoned the assailants but seemed biased in favor of them, Pastor Kashyap said.

“They said, ‘Why are you committing only half-murder? If you want to really kill, close their chapter fully – commit full murder,’” he said.

Though the Christians have since returned to the village, they remain fearful for their future. 

According to Morning Star News, the Christians had previously experienced persecution at the hands of the tribal animists. In February, the assailants tore down the Christian’s mud homes and attempted to expel them from the village 

“Since you have accepted Christianity, we don’t want you people to stay in this village. You have defiled the village by bringing a foreign faith amongst us. We have no place for people like you in our village,” a village elder said. 

In May, it was reported that animists in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh, told five Christian families they would lose their harvest lands unless they returned to their tribal religion. When the Christians refused, they were beaten. 

In April, after demolishing a pastor’s house and driving his family into the jungle, tribal animists in central India severely beat the Christian leader and threatened to destroy his vocal cords so he could no longer preach. 

A recently-released report from the Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India found that amid the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, Christians faced more opposition than ever from their communities because of their faith.

The report found that 135 cases of persecution occurred in the first half of 2020, including a lynching, community ostracization, and the sodomization and murder of two Christian men. However, EFI noted that 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. 

Open Doors USA, a religious freedom monitoring group that operates in 60 countries, ranks India as the 10th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. 

Incidents of persecution against Christians in India have increased since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, says Open Doors. The group warns that those who persecute Christians rarely face consequences from police.

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 nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.

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