A 50-year-old Christian convert in India died last month after he and his wife were forced to endure the torture of standing neck deep in a freezing pond for more than half a day after they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.
Global Christian News reports that tribal residents of Kubuaa village in the Jharkhand state were upset that Christian convert Bartu Urawn and his family had left the indigenous tribal religion, Sarna Dharam, and embraced Christianity over 10 years ago.
In retaliation for the family's unwillingness to leave Christianity, the villagers immersed Urawn and his wife in a frigid pond for over 17 hours one winter day last year.
Urawn's son, Beneswar, told the news outlet that the couple was forced to wade in the freezing water from about 5 p.m. until 10 a.m. the next day. After suffering from two paralytic attacks caused by nerve damage and illness, Urawn died on Jan. 20.
"All throughout the night, they were in the cold water shivering, and I along with 15 to 20 villagers were witness to the brutality," Beneswar Urawn explained. "The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold. He reiterated every time, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe until my last breath.'"
Beneswar explained that his family was not the only one in the village that embraced Christianity over 10 years ago, as nine other families also decided to put their faith in Christ. But amid constant demands that the families return to the indigenous religion, seven of the families caved to threats and renounced Christ.
As a majority of families converted back to the tribal religion, pressure increased on the Urawn family. Beneswar said the village came together like a mob, attacked his family, locked them inside their home for hours and soiled the family's drinking water.
Urwan was abused and assaulted by the villagers for three years, and last year a mob abducted him and forced him to attend one of their worship services. During the service, an animal was sacrificed. The villagers then forced Urawn to eat a portion of the sacrifice and also forced him to drink fermented liquor.
"They told my father that now the demons will not let him live," Beneswar recalled.
But when Urawn refused to cave to their threats and deny Christ, the villagers tied Urawn and his wife with their hands behind their backs and forced them into the cold pond water.
"It was last year in winter when the cruel villagers put my mother and father in cold water at 5 in the evening until 10 next day morning," Beneswar said. "I was away and on my return, they made me sit outside the pond and watch my parents die."
After surviving the night in the frigid water, the villagers pulled the couple out of the water and then proceeded to beat the couple.
Even though his wife was able to recover from the beating and night in the water, Urawn was not as fortunate and suffered from a paralytic attack that prevented his body from being able to move.
"My father suffered a second attack and his body became stiff," Beneswar added. "He could not move his hands and legs and ultimately died."
After his father died, Beneswar said the villagers would not let him give his father a proper burial, even if it was on the family's property.
"I told the villagers that I will bury him in my own personal land, but they stood with wooden sticks to attack if I tried," Beneswar explained.
Beneswar said that in order to give his father a proper funeral, he and four other Christians had to walk over 6 miles with the body to government land.
Even though the villagers wouldn't permit Urawn's burial, they still insisted that his wife follow Sarna Dharam tradition and serve food to the whole village. When Beneswar said that they are Christian and that their tradition is to hold a "prayer meeting," the villagers threatened to kill Beneswar and other Christians if they attempted to hold a prayer meeting.
After Urawn's death, his family fled from the village and is now hiding in refuge within India.
"The police did nothing about the murder of my father, calling it a 'natural death,' but invited the villagers on Feb. 2 for 'peace talks' and instructed them to not trouble us further, as faith is our personal matter and we are free to believe whom we want to," Beneswar added.
According to the 2017 Open Doors USA World Watch List, India ranks as the 15th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. Although the main culprit of the persecution of Indian Christians tend to be Hindu extremists, Christian converts throughout India are pressured to return to their faiths.
"The level of impunity has gone up markedly, with communities of converts to Christianity from Hinduism bearing the brunt of the persecution," an Open Doors fact sheet states. "They are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs, and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed."
Earlier this month, Morningstar News reported that a pastor in India fell into a coma after he was assaulted by Hindu extremists in the Medipally village in the Telangana state after he prayed for healing at the home of an elderly church member who had just been released from the hospital.