In India, persecution is increasing in intensity as Hindu nationalists call for an all-Hindu nation and vow to eradicate Christianity by 2021. We share this recent report (March 11, 2018) to bring you up close to the persecution our brothers and sisters, including Christian churches and pastors, are experiencing right now.
A recent spree of violence on a spate of Christian churches and their pastors in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu reinforces the increasing persecution in India. It also reflects Hindu extremists’ resolve to drive out Christians.
A Hindu mob of 50 extremists raided five churches–brutally attacking and abusing Christians as they worshipped. Reportedly, the mob stripped and beat several women.
The attackers, who according to witnesses included a state-provided police officer, were part of Hindu Munnani, an organization formed to defend Hinduism.
The organization’s District Secretary Thangam Venkatesh led the mob, which began its raids early in the morning.
Church Pastors Verbally Abused and Brutally Attacked
At about 9 a.m., Venkatesh went to the prayer hall and abused the pastor, Ravi Jacob. He used extremely vulgar language and then turned on his wife, Persis.
“The extremists were aggressive and uncontrollable,” John J.Y. Arul, chairman of a local pastors’ fellowship in India, told World Watch Monitor.
In front of children and others in the church, they savagely beat up Jacob and Persis. They removed the saree of the pastor’s wife and repeatedly kicked her in the face, Arul said.
“I can’t repeat the words they used against Persis. We were shocked by their inhuman behavior.”
When Persis cried for help, the police guard with the Munnani leader asked her to “prostrate herself at the feet of Thangam Venkatesh and plead for his forgiveness.”
The mob also burnt Christian literature, including Bibles.
Attackers Continue Violence Spree
The same Hindu Munnani men attacked four other churches and their pastors in the district.
At about 10 a.m., the mob went to the Bethesda Worship Centre, where they stripped and attacked three women. The assailants sexually assaulted two of the women, Maariyammal, 40, and Annal, 51. They slapped and punched Bava Dhaarani, 23.
Treatment from local police set forth another wave of persecution. When Maariyammal attempted to lodge a complaint with police, she was told they could “only take one complaint per church.” And the church pastor, they said, had already made a complaint.
The mob issued a death threat to Bethseda’s pastor, Jerome Jagatheesan: “You will be brutally murdered in five days.” They also taunted him: “If you are a man, why did you convert? Why did you change your god?”
Jagatheesan recalls the abuse: “Their words were brutish. Had I uttered a single word, they would have attacked us the same way sister Persis was attacked. They showed no mercy.”
Mob Issues Death Threats
The activists also told Jagatheesan: “If you want to serve Jesus Christ, go to Bethlehem or the Vatican. Worship him there. Why do you want to make India impure?”
At the church, the mob shouted threats to a 19-year-old named James, whose father, Emmanuel, pastors another church. The activists called out: “If you continue gathering for Sunday worship and prayers, it will be your dad’s turn next.”
James added: “[Hindu nationalists] are ruling in the center; it is their government. We Christians are helpless.”
Another pastor, Sagi Sugathia, said the mob “are at least 25 in number and very violent. We had to stop our church services because of Thangam Venkatesh and his men.”
Please pray this week for the safety of these church leaders and their churches. Pray also for healing for those wounded in the attacks and the victims’ mental and emotional state after these abusive and violent attacks.
The top photo is a video still from Hindu extremist Thangam Venkatesh (left) shouting abuse at Pastor Jagatheesan.