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On the night of June 4, 2020, in the teen’s east Indian village of Kenduguda in Odisha state, men known to be Hindu extremists and a few villagers came to the seventh grader’s house, armed with sticks and knives. What happened next is difficult to ascertain. Conflicting reports say the assailants took Samaru and two of his older relatives by force; other reports indicate the three left thinking they were attending a meeting.
We do know that after overpowering their attackers, the two older believers managed to escape. Samaru did not.
The next day, police recovered the young boy’s slain body. Reportedly, he was stoned to death. After carrying out the gruesome crime, his attackers buried his body and fled the scene. With “missing person” reports filed by both Samaru’s father and his pastor, the next day police interrogated suspects who confessed to their crime and began disclosing the horrific details.
Samaru’s family and other local believers in their village believe the young boy was targeted and murdered because of his conversion and for his fervent passion to share about the Savior he had found. Pastor Bijay Pusuru, who serves in Malkangiri district, said the teen was a passionate Christian.
“He always shared from the Bible with youth and children from the village,” the pastor said through tears. He remembers a few words that Samaru had recently shared with him, “If anything happens to my pastor, I will not fear. I will take charge of pastor’s work and serve the Lord.”
Since converting to Christianity in 2017, Unga and his son have been harassed. Samaru was active in prayer meetings at Bethel House Church led by Pastor Bijay. Unga serves as an elder there. Local Christians report villagers have been upset for the past three years over the growth of Christian conversions. Christians in their village have faced many threats.
This is not the first time a Christian has been slain for his faith in Odisha state. On January 23, 1999, Graham Stains and his two young sons, Philip and Timothy, were burned alive by a Hindu fundamentalist group.