Indian pastor bludgeoned to death with wooden beam; wife says husband is ‘Martyr for his faith’

An Indian man walks outside a deserted church, as India remains under an unprecedented extended lockdown due to COVID-19 on May 5, 2020, in Delhi, India.
An Indian man walks outside a deserted church, as India remains under an unprecedented extended lockdown due to COVID-19 on May 5, 2020, in Delhi, India. | Getty Images/Yawar Nazir

A pastor and father of an 11-year-old girl was reportedly ambushed and killed with a wooden beam in the northern Indian state of Haryana. His wife believes the suspect, with whom the Christian minister shared the Gospel, attacked her husband because of his faith.

Sources told Morning Star News that the suspect was identified as a Hindu man named Sonu Kashyap from Sangoi village in Haryana state’s Karnal district. Kashyap is accused of attacking Pastor Vinod Kumar with a wooden roof truss in the late evening last Wednesday.

Earlier that evening, the suspect’s brother had called the pastor to ask him to pray for a sick villager. The pastor's wife, Sunita Kumar, claimed her husband was attacked as he was leaving the villager's home. 

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Kashyap was waiting in ambush as her husband was about to start his motorbike, she said.

“He attacked Vinod unaware from behind," she detailed. "He hit him hard on his head three times even after he fell from the motorbike. He hit him till his skull broke open.”

Neighbors saw Kashyap standing with the wooden beam next to Pastor Kumar’s body, Pastor Sompal Kalre, who mentored Kumar and led him to Christ over a quarter-century ago, told the nonprofit persecution news outlet.

“But before the police arrived, the villagers caught hold of Sonu and started hitting him,” Pastor Kalre was quoted as saying. “The police arrived in time and rescued Sonu from the hands of the angry villagers, or else the mob would have killed him.”

Kashyap has three court cases pending against him, the mentor said.

Police are claiming the motive was some personal enmity, but Sunita Kumar said her husband talked about God with Kashyap for two-and-a-half months and believes this upset him. She indicated that the suspect asked the pastor to pray for his deliverance from drug addiction. 

“Kashyap had also visited our home to get himself prayed for,” she said. “I do not know what came upon him that he took such a drastic step of killing Vinod so brutally.”

The village chief, Angrez Singh Saini, recalled that Kumar had a good testimony and name.

“He was serving humanity," Sani told Morning Star News. "His life was such that he wronged nobody, nor did anybody dislike him.”

Pastor Kumar, a convert from Hinduism, was the only Christian in his family. And his parents and siblings were upset with him for following Christ, Sunita Kumar added.

“I have resolved to carry on the work my husband was doing," the slain pastor’s wife said. "And I want to live his dream out. Vinod became a martyr for his faith, and I too will die for my faith.”

Christians make up about 2.5% of India’s population, while Hindus comprise 79.5%.

Attacks on Christians and other minorities have been on the rise since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2014 national elections.

India ranks as the 10th worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the U.S. State Department to label India as a "country of particular concern" for engaging in or tolerating severe religious freedom violations. 

“In 2020, religious freedom conditions in India continued their negative trajectory. The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom,” notes USCIRF's annual report released in April, warning that mobs attacked Christians, destroyed churches and disrupted worship services over accusations of forced conversions. 

"In many cases, authorities did not prevent these abuses and ignored or chose not to investigate pleas to hold perpetrators accountable," the report continues. "This contributed to increased mob attacks and a fear of reprisal against those coming forward. Religious minorities remain concerned about the potential for a national anti-conversion law and additional state-level statutes."

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