Around 30 Christian families living in Omardho, a village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, are being hounded by a large group of religious extremists. This action is being carried out in an attempt to force Christians to recant their faith.
“On the 20th of September 2020 at around 2 pm, a few policemen along with the fanatics came to the home of Premvati, a Christian woman. They accused her of being paid to convert villagers to Christianity” said Pr. Vinod in conversation with Persecution Relief.
The Pastor said that the policemen told the Christians to stop all Christian activities after the extremists accused them of religious conversions. Once the policemen left, the extremists got aggressive and began verbally abusing them.
“You shouldn’t have stopped worshipping our gods and goddesses and taken down their pictures. You will not receive basic utilities like rationed food and water henceforth because we are going to cut your names out from that list- these were their threats” Pastor Vinod told Persecution Relief.
Pr. Vinod also pleasantly narrated, that all the Christians who were approached by the fanatics gave befitting replies to them. “The Holy Bible makes sense to us and we have witnessed many wonderful deliverances and healings through prayer. Our lives have changed for the better.”
“The extremists kept arguing with the Christians saying that they should read the Ramayana instead of the Bible and visit ‘Babas’ (god-men) for healings and miracles. However, the Christians said that they now have a peace which they never had before” Pr. Vinod shared.
The Pastor told Persecution Relief that the fanatics grew agitated hearing the replies and claimed that the Christians were taught to give such answers. “They took my name and address from the Christians, warning and threatening them of dire consequences if they did not pay heed to their demands” he added.
“Many people in that area are approaching the Christians as people are experiencing healings and miracles through their prayers and faith in Jesus Christ” explained Dani Paul, a Persecution Relief district coordinator.
“Since the nation-wide lockdown, we have stopped gathering together and hold our meetings via conference calls. Our people are primarily from the Gond and Kattiya tribes and even though large assemblies have stopped, many are turning to Jesus Christ!” Pr. Vinod exclaimed.
“The extremists’ group approached 5 families before they opposed Premvati. They have been moving around and extracting personal information of Christians living in that area” said Biju Varghese, state coordinator of Madhya Pradesh for Persecution Relief.
“We are peaceful people. Our silence should not lead the fanatics to believe that we are helpless and weak. Hence, we would like to approach the authorities, maybe the collector, SP, and other officials of the area, and voice our concerns regarding this matter” expressed Pr. Vinod.
“I am not fearful of these men. However, we all have families that we need to watch out for. Christians are being unjustly arrested almost every day, under false charges of forced conversions. Tomorrow it maybe me. Like many others, I will be faced with uncertainties said the Pastor and young father of 2.
In the 1st Half of 2020, Persecution Relief recorded 293 cases of Christian Persecution. In 2019 alone, we recorded the maximum number of 527 cases compared to 447 cases in 2018, 440 in 2017, and 330 in 2016. From January 2016 to June 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 2067 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India.
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, Persecution Relief