On the night of the 20th of May 2020, a group of religious fanatics broke into the homes of 2 Christian families who live in Kokkar Pal Panchayat in Sukma District, Chhattisgarh. The group wielded lathis (wooden clubs) and bows and arrows. At roughly 9pm, the families woke up to a nightmare. A total of 10 people including 5 children were brutally attacked and warned not to return to the village.
Petrified and in a state of shock, the women clung to their children for dear life, while their husbands led them through a nearby jungle, as they ran for their lives under the cover of darkness. With great difficulty and in terrible pain, the Christians headed towards the home of *Raju, the Pastor of their Church. One couple reached Pastor Raju’s home at 2 am with a severe gash to his head from which he was bleeding profusely, while the rest of them began to gradually gather thereafter, all with serious wounds from the attack. Seeing the extent of their injuries, Raju immediately rushed them to the local government hospital which is 20 kms away. Two couples are currently recuperating at the government district Hospital.
Speaking to Persecution Relief, Pastor Raju informed us that over the past week, the group of religious goons had been harassing these Christian families to forsake Christ. They accused them of bringing a foreign religion into the village and threatened them to stop praying within their homes or face dire consequences, including a death threat if they continued to follow their Christian ways or if they went to the police. However, the Christians held their ground and refused to forsake Christ.
Even though the Covid-19 crisis has taken a toll on Pastor Raju’s livelihood as well, he has expressed his desire of caring for the needs of the persecuted families just as a good Shepherd cares for the needs of his sheep. There are 2 injured couples, 1 elderly woman and 5 children to look after. A huge responsibility for Pastor Raju. Persecution Relief has provided immediate support for the family’s basic needs and has encouraged Pastor Raju to continue to stand with them. As and when the need arises, Persecution Relief has promised to support these families to the best of their ability as they continue to find courage to live for Jesus Christ.
A complaint against the assailants has also been filed at the local police station. A Persecution Relief correspondent has spoken to the town inspector in an effort to mediate on behalf of the victims. The town inspector in turn has promised to look into the matter and has dispatched a team of police to the village to investigate.
Since January 2020, Persecution Relief has documented over 10 cases of Hate Crimes against Christians in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh alone. What stands out amongst these cases is an increasing trend of assault, Social Boycott and Excommunication. Religious fanatics are using the vulnerable conditions of poor and needy Christians in villages and remote places and threatening them to forsake their faith or be boycotted and excommunicated. Where do these helpless people go? Entire families including women and children have to be protected and provided for. More so, the fanatics know these conditions and use it against the Christians.
From January 2016 to March 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 1961 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India. In the 1st Quarter of 2020, we recorded 187 cases. Between 1st Quarter of 2016 to 1st Quarter of 2020, there has been a rise of 128.04 % of Hate Crimes against Christians all across the country. In 1st Quarter of 2016, we have recorded 82 cases, in 2017 – 134, 2018 – 117, 2019 – 130 and in 2020 we recorded 187 cases of Christian Persecution. In 2019 alone, Persecution Relief has recorded the maximum number of 527 cases compared to 447 cases in 2018, 440 in 2017 and 330 in 2016.
In 2019 we have recorded 199 incidents related to Threats, Intimidations & Harassments against Christians, 104 incidents of Church attacks, 85 incidents of Physical Violence reported which includes Women & Children, 100s of House Churches were forcefully closed down by Religious Fanatics and the local administrations. US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) ranked India’s persecution severity at “Tier 2” along with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, ranking just behind Iran in persecution severity.
Shibu Thomas. Founder, Persecution Relief