“What’s all this nonsense going on here?” Two angry religious fanatics yelled at a Pastor’s family, after they forcefully entered their home at around 4pm in the evening and began creating a commotion. The family was shocked and taken aback by the unexpected visit as there was no prayer meeting going on then.
“They immediately started accusing us of religious conversion, threatening us to stop or warning us of terrible consequences” said the Pastor’s wife *Leela, in conversation with Persecution Relief. This incident took place on the 28th of August 2020, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
For the past 11 years, *Pr. Rohit has been running a House Church at his residence. “We have been following all lockdown norms. In fact, we used to be 50-60 people meeting together, but since March, I have been encouraging only small groups to gather to pray” he added.
The following is an excerpt of a recording which the Pastor’s son managed to get while the fanatics threatened the family:
“We were on our way to Gorakhpur on our motor cycle when our eyes fell upon a board that is erected outside your home. It invites sick people to come and experience healing in Jesus Christ. We want you to take that board down right away. We don’t want to see it ever again. On YouTube we see how people like you are converting thousands of us. You should be chanting in our temples, not here in your homes. Don’t assume we are going to just sit and watch. Stop all this conversion drama right away, otherwise you will be sorry!”
Leela told Persecution Relief that no matter how hard they tried to explain to them that they were not in the business of converting people, the fanatics refused to listen to them. “You and me cannot stop God from doing what He has to do” she finally told them before they left.
Pr. Rohit and his family are not new to persecution. In January 2020, a neighbour requested the family to give him a bible saying that he wanted to read it. The same neighbour went to the Police Station and made a false complaint against the Pastor saying, “Look, he has given me the bible and trying to force me to convert to Christianity”
The police soon came and arrested the Pastor. Persecution Relief spoke to the concerned authorities and the Pastor was later released without charges.
At present, incidents like these have become rampant in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Religious extremists’ groups have taken it upon themselves to attack citizens belonging to religious minorities, like it is an obligation.
Persecution Relief recorded 13 cases of Christian persecution in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the month of August 2020 alone. It continues to be a dangerous state for religious minorities to live in with the Yogi-government liberally propagating religious intolerance.
According to the Oxford dictionary, Terrorism is termed as ‘The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Is it safe to now say that terrorism is intensifying in India? Or are we still better than our neighbours?
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 www.persecutionrelief.org