India: Woman brutally murdered by Hindu radicals for converting to Christianity

Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists.
Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists. | John Fredricks

A woman in India who had recently converted to Christianity was brutally murdered by four youths associated with a Hindu fanatic group, marking the fifth religiously motivated killing of a Christian in the country in less than two months.

UCA News reports that four youths were arrested in connection with the murder of a Christian woman, Suman Munda, 25, killed in Redhadi, a village in Khunti district, on July 19.

A local pastor who requested anonymity told International Christian Concern that Munda converted to Christianity six years ago. After learning of her conversion, radical Hindu nationalists started harassing her. 

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When relatives visited Munda’s house they could not find her, they later discovered her body at a deserted place near her home.

“I suspect that it is the handiwork of a Hindu fanatic group. Christians here have been facing a serious threat from it. The fanatic group is asking us to go back to Hinduism. We are scared and our people are shattered,” Bishop Binay Kandulna of Khunti told UCA News.

Last month, Ramji Munda, 27, was murdered in the same district. Villagers believe the Christian man was killed by an anti-Pathalgadi group that safeguards tribal people’s rights.

“It is a matter of serious concern because the state witnessed a Christian man killed only last month in the same district. The administration as well as leaders should take note of it and take appropriate steps,” Kandulna said. 

“Persons of any faith are a creation of God and we have to respect all, but some vested interest groups are trying to target minorities in the state to spread hatred among various faiths who are otherwise peace-loving people.

“We condemn the killing and appeal to the administration to take strict action against the culprits. It is very unfortunate that we have lost a precious life.”

Munda was the fourth Christian to be murdered in India in the last two months. Previous killings included a woman, a teenager, and a pastor — all targeted for their faith. 

On May 25, Bijaya Mandavi, 38, was found dead in the jungle near Baddi village in Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh. Her body was partially decomposed and reportedly surrounded by street dogs when police discovered it. 

In June, Sombura Madkami, a 14-year-old Christian boy from Kenduguda village, located in the Malkangiri district of India’s Odisha state, was brutally murdered by fanatics who've harassed Christians of Kenduguda village for years.

On July 10, a Maoist group in the Gadchiroli district of India’s Maharashtra state shot and killed Munshi Dev Tado, a 28-year-old Christian convert and father of four children, ages 6, 5, 4 and 1. The pastor and his family began to suffer persecution after leaving the Maoist Naxalite movement and converting to Christianity several years ago.

Additionally, numerous reports have emerged of Indian Christians facing various forms of harassment for their faith amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One report documented how Christians and other non-Hindus in India are being denied government-issued food rations amid the coronavirus pandemic unless they renounce their faith. 

India is ranked No. 10 on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. The watchdog notes that persecution against Christians has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India, reported 293 cases of Christian persecution in the first half of 2020. In 2019, it recorded 527 cases compared to 447 in 2018.

Additionally, a report from the Delhi-based Evangelical Fellowship of India documented 135 cases of persecution that occurred across India in the first half of 2020.

The report notes that in recent years, the lack of police action in response to such attacks has emboldened Hindu extremists to persecute Christians without fear of any consequence. 

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 countries that engage in or tolerate egregious violations of religious freedom.

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