Two pastors who were attacked and beaten by Hindu extremists right before the beginning of a three-day Gospel meeting in India's Chhattisgarh state were forced to apologize because their conference and the words of Jesus caused snowflake radicals to be offended.
A local pastor told Morning Star News, a nonprofit news agency that reports on Christian persecution, that pastors Vijay Jogi and Santosh Rao were coerced by police into signing an apology letter to a mob of Hindus who prevented them from holding their Gospel meeting that was to be attended by over 1,000 people at Railway Grounds in Charoda.
On Nov. 16, a group of about 70 Hindu nationalists attacked the pastors just minutes before the event was about to start.
"Pastor Vijay Jogi and Pastor Santosh Rao were receiving the people at the entrance," Pastor Amos James told the outlet. "Suddenly a mob of 70 Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal activists gheraoed (encircled) the entrance, and Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station."
Jogi told Morning Star News that the extremists slapped Rao three times and then proceeded to beat them both.
Jogi explained that before the start of the meeting, he had received a call from local police warning them to call the meeting off. It wasn't until after the attack that they realized that "these people will not let us conduct prayers."
According to Jogi, the Hindu extremists became upset when they saw the words of Luke 7:22-23 in pamphlets around the area advertising the event.
That verse states: "And [Jesus] answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.'"
"The Hindu activists began arguing with us, 'You are promoting blind beliefs. How can lame walk? How can deaf hear? How can you raise the dead? When your God can do all this, why are you people going to the doctors then?'" Jogi recalled.
"They told me it is very wrong that I have written these lines," the pastor continued. "I said, 'I did not write these words. It's a verse taken from the Holy Bible and applies to the entire humankind."'
The activists declared, "We are offended by these lines," Jogi said.
"If because I quoted these lines in the pamphlet, it is offending you at personal level, I apologize to you brothers. We are very sorry," Jogi recalled telling the Hindu radicals.
Although Christian leaders in the area have had no issues holding events in that location in the past 20 years, the Hindu mob reportedly claimed that the pastors needed to have approval for the event from the sub-judicial magistrate in addition to approval from the railway police.
The extremists then took the pastors down to the police station, where the pastors were also questioned by the police about needing the approval of a sub-judicial magistrate.
"The police told me to settle the matter here and stop the event immediately," Jogi claimed. "I was cautioned while Pastor Rao and I were in the police station that the activists are tearing and burning the banners, breaking the tube lights, chairs and dismantling the stage. The police officer told us even if he lodged a case [against the extremists], it would go strongly against us, and that even he can't help it. The police did not register an FIR."
Pastor Rao told Morning Star News that Hindu radicals badgered them while they were at the police station and asked questions like "Why are you calling Hindus to your events?" and "Why are you conducting open gospel meetings publicly?" The extremists demanded that the Christian leaders only work among Christians.
Rao explained that once the police were on the Hindu mob's side, there was "very little hope for Christians in a situation like this."
While Jogi and Rao were in the police station, they were "forced to sign a letter handwritten by the activists under the supervision of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) worker Rajguru Ghosale."
"The letter said by conducting this meeting we hurt the feelings of Hindus, we sincerely apologize for it and canceling the event," Rao recalled. "They slapped me to sign it."
The pastors told Morning Star News that they will not file charges against the Hindus or the police.
"We will conduct the gospel meetings again in May. We are not giving up this time. With permissions from all the authorities and government officials, we will conduct the meetings," Jogi was quoted as saying. "The activists are following me wherever I go. I know there is threat to my life. But I have dedicated my life fully to my Lord's work, and I will be at it till my last breath."
The news surrounding the Gospel meeting in Charoda comes as India ranks as the 15th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.
Most recently, it was reported that seven pastors in Northern India were arrested and could face up to three years in prison after they were accused of forcible conversion. The arrests occurred after the pastors were called to a home in Uttar Pradesh to pray for a recent Christian convert and her husband. However, family members were upset by the couple's conversion and complained about a forced conversion to police, which eventually led to the seven pastors' arrests.
Through the past year, a number of Christians have been arrested in Madhya Pradesh state while transporting children to Christian schools after Hindu extremists accused the Christians of forcibly converting Hindu children.
Morning Star News also reported on six Christians in India's Jharkhand state who were jailed for over a month for praying for a sick Hindu woman.
"India continues its trajectory towards despair," Wilson Chowdhry, the chairman of the London-based charity British Asian Christian Association, said in a recent statement. "The caste system is gaining renewed impetus, destroying the lives of disenfranchised citizens simply for the families they were born into. Worse, still every minority living in the midst of the Hindu majority are living through a time of increased suspicion and animosity."