'Suffering for the sake of the Gospel': Hindu radicals in India brutally beat pastor for 2 hours

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 pastor in India shared how his faith sustained him as Hindu extremists beat him almost to the point of death because of his evangelistic efforts. 

International Christian Concern reports that on Aug. 21, Pastor Prasanna Kumar, 32, was attacked and brutally beaten by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists as he returned home from a prayer meeting in Bikampur village, located in the Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh. The radicals accused the pastor of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity.

“The attack seemed well planned,” Pastor Kumar told ICC. “I thought they were going to kill me.”

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According to the pastor, a mob surrounded him and pulled him from his motorbike before beating him with wooden clubs. 

“They yelled at me and accused me of converting people to the Christian faith,” Kumar told ICC. “They said that I give money to people to make them convert to Christianity.”

“I tried to talk to them, but they would not allow me to say anything,” Kumar continued. “I was bleeding from my head and was kicked around like a football.”

The attack lasted for two hours, leading the pastor to believe he was going to die. 

“God gave me the grace to accept even death,” Kumar told ICC. “Scriptures were running through my mind as I was being attacked. However, when I thought about my 4-year-old daughter and my wife, I was shattered, and it was excruciating.”

When the radicals finally stopped beating Kumar, they told him they would kill him if they saw him in the village again. 

Kumar reported the incident to the authorities; however, local police refused to file his complaint, accusing him of attempting to register a false report. 

It wasn’t until three days later, when church leader from outside Bareilly district called the police station and advocated on Kumar’s behalf, that the complaint was accepted. Still, police haven't taken any action against the radicals Kumar named in his complaint. 

“I counted the costs of serving God when I came here,” Kumar told ICC, adding: “A number of pastors in my region have been attacked, and some have even given up their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I don’t mind suffering for the sake of the Gospel.”

Stories of Hindu radicals persecuting Christians are not uncommon in Uttar Pradesh, where believers make up just 0.18% of the population. 

According to Persecution Relief, which tracks anti-Christian persecution and harassment in India, crimes against Christians in India increased 60% between 2016 and 2019. The majority of these incidents have happened in Uttar Pradesh.

In March, Christians in Uttar Pradesh state were falsely accused of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity and were subsequently brutally beaten by a drunken police officer who then ordered them to pose like Christ on the cross. 

Christian rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar from the advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom said police in Uttar Pradesh have “time and again unleashed their anger against minorities.”

“It appears the Hindu extremist groups are closely working with the police officers to target Christian worship,” he said. 

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 group notes that attacks on Christians in India have been on the rise since Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party took office as prime minister in 2014.

“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,” it says. “Also, converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.”

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