While India is going through a deadly second wave of COVID-19, the persecution of Christians carries on. Radical Hindu nationalists shot dead a 52-year-old Christian man, who was the father of a pastor, and wielded swords and sickles to attack other family members, according to a report.
About 15 Hindu nationalist men attacked the family of Pastor Ramesh Bumbariya at his home in the Bansawra District in the northwestern state of Rajasthan on Tuesday, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported, saying the family was attacked because they refused to renounce their Christian faith.
A man in the mob pointed a gun at the pastor to shoot him but it failed to fire. The man then pointed the gun at the pastor’s father, identified as Bhima Bumbariya, and shot the 52-year-old Christian.
After his father collapsed to the ground, Pastor Bumbariya was knocked unconscious, ICC said, adding that Pastor Bumbariya and two other members of his family were transported to the government hospital in Udaipur city, but the hospital staff refused to admit the injured Christians due to COVID-19 regulations.
The Christians were later admitted to a private hospital.
“I believe God has a definite purpose in keeping me alive,” Pastor Bumbariya, a church planter who has started several house churches and faced allegations of “forced” conversion, was quoted as saying.
“I will carry on the ministry God has given to me. We gave up so much already for the sake of our faith. They took away our agricultural land, they destroyed our house, now they want our lives. I am worried about my family and children; about what will happen to them when I am not around,” the pastor added.
Attacks on Christians and restrictions on their faith have been on the rise since the BJP won India’s 2014 general election.
In February, Christians in the eastern state of Jharkhand were hospitalized after suffering injuries following an attack by radical Hindi nationalists who accused them of constructing an unauthorized church and converting people to Christianity.
A recent report from Human Rights Watch warned that prejudices embedded in the government of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have increasingly “infiltrated independent institutions,” such as the police and the courts, “empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass and attack religious minorities with impunity.”
Todd Nettleton, a host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that persecution was “increasing” in India due to the strict anti-conversion laws and influence of Modi and the BJP.
“Since the current ruling party took power in 2014, incidents against Christians have increased, and Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences,” noted Open Doors’ World Watch List last year, which has ranked India as the 10th worst country for Christians.
“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. Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities,” Open Doors said at the time.
Last year, India denied entry visas to representatives of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom who had planned to investigate reports of persecution of Muslims and Christians following the release of its report that designates India as a “Country of Particular Concern.”
In a statement to CP, advocacy group The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America said at the time it was “deeply disappointed” India did not receive the CPC designation in 2020.
“The national government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence,” FIACONA said. “The Indian government headed by the Hindu nationalist BJP party continues to claim so conveniently that all such violence against Christians in India is isolated incidents and not the policy of the government.”
Nettleton, who has traveled to more than 20 restricted countries and interviewed hundreds of believers who’ve faced persecution for their Christian witness, told CP that prayer is the “first thing” persecuted Christians ask for.
“The convicting thing is, their prayer is not that they won’t suffer anymore or that their countries will be free and the church will be allowed to operate,” he said. “Rather, they’re asking us to pray that they will remain faithful to Christ in spite of the persecution and hardship.”