Loud screams woke up a Pastor and his family from a deep sleep at the dead of night on the 9th of September 2020. Religious fanatics had set his car and the church on fire in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

“At approximately 12:45 am, my father and sister ran outside after hearing the locals yelling and shouting outside our home. They were shocked to see the vehicle and the church ablaze” said *Vijay, the son of *Pr.Jesu.

Speaking to Persecution Relief, Vijay explained that he was elsewhere as he works around 100 km away and visits his family only on weekends. “My sister immediately called me and we alerted the fire station. The fire brigade arrived at around 3:00 am, but by that time the car and half of the Church were already ruined,” he added.

“I thank God that my family is safe. The church was under construction on our property. However, the ground floor was complete. The Hyundai i10 car was also fairly new and hardly used since the nation-wide lockdown was imposed” said Vijay.

The police were informed about the attack and a complaint has been registered at the local police station. “The police have promised to do their best for us. They are currently thoroughly investigating the case” said Vijay.

“Recently we went to pray at a believer’s home around 3 km away. While we prayed, a man entered and threatened us to stop and leave. We found out later that he also has two WhatsApp groups on which they conspire to attack Christians. I have shared this information with the Police” Vijay added.

Pr. Jesu is a senior and very well reputed pastor. He has been ministering for the past 38 years. “When local Christian leaders and fellow believers got to know, they were shocked. They said, ‘if something like this can happen to you, how are we safe?’” Vijay explained.

Vijay, who is also an advocate by profession, said that they want justice, to ensure that a blind eye is not turned towards such a heinous crime. “We have faced opposition before, but never imagined something like this could happen to us” he added.

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
email : persecutionrelief@gmail.com


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