More than 60 Christians including women and children were locked up inside their Church building by a mob of over 50 religious fanatics in Davangere, Karnataka. 2 policemen dressed in civil dress were also present during this mob attack that took place on the 16th of August 2020 at 10:30 am.
“Our Church gathered together for the Sunday Worship service following all government norms. We were taken by complete surprise when both the doors of our Church building were suddenly shut by the mob with all of us inside” said *John Paul-son of Pastor George who leads the Church.
Speaking to Persecution Relief, John said that he began to make calls for help to other Christian Pastors and leaders in the vicinity but because it was a Sunday morning, all their lines were unavailable. “I was desperate, all I could think of doing was calling the control room, so I called 100” he said.
He immediately got a policeman online and explained the situation to him. The policemen then reached the place and proceeded to open the Church building doors with the raging mob outside. “As soon as the doors opened, the mob grabbed me and another fellow Christian named *Stephen and began to beat us and abuse us” said John.
“The mob was not afraid of the police at all. They beat us in front of them and forced the whole congregation, including women and children to proceed to the police station” said John, who explained that the mob falsely accused them of forced religious conversions and bribery.
John narrated how miserable he felt to watch the young children, elderly people and the women be put through such torment. “In spite of the heavy rains, all the members of my church were forced to go to the Police Station. There the policemen just made us wait and wait, testing our patience. From 10:30 am to 3:00 pm in the afternoon, the police held us, with no concern for the little children who were not only hungry but also tired from the ordeal” he said.
“By around 1:00 pm I realized that most of the Church meetings must be over so, I called a few Christian elders who quickly came to the police station to help us. The police stated all sorts of false allegations that were made against us by the mob, but I assured them that it was not true” said John.
The Church which is registered as a trust for the past 5 years has never been in such trouble or defaulted in any way, John explained to Persecution Relief. He also said that he produced all necessary documents to the police and told them that they had never done anything against the law.
John discussed how; many questions were raised regarding the behavior of the mob towards the Church which his father, *Pastor George has been peacefully leading for almost ten years in that area. The Church has been a blessing to that locality and many people visit the Church and experience healings and breakthroughs in hopeless situations.
“The young men who came to harm us were so full of rage and uttered despicable words against us. I do not understand the hate they projected towards us, when we have never done anything against them in the first place. However, we still chose to forgive them and pray for them” said John.
Between January to July 2020, Persecution Relief has documented 9 religiously motivated hate crimes that have led to death, of which 2 involve rape. From January 2016 to June 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 2067 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India of which 293 cases were recorded in the first half of 2020 alone.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, ‘Countries of Particular Concern’(CPC) in its 2020 report. The US State Department 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 is founder of Persecution Relief