He first began to follow Jesus at the age of 24. His youngest son was about a year old at the time, and suffering greatly from a disease that doctors could not cure. While his tribe are traditionally animist, Rupesh and his wife visited various temples and shrines in their desperate search for a miracle, hoping to appease any god who could heal their little boy. But all of their efforts came to nothing. Rupesh and his wife were discouraged and losing hope.
One of his relatives told Rupesh about Jesus, and prayed for his son. Miraculously, the boy started getting better. Rupesh could not stop giving thanks to the Lord for this gift of life. His family started attending a small house church near their village.
When people in his village started to notice Rupesh’s newfound faith, the response was quick and negative. He was taken aside once and told to stop going to church. He was told to stop speaking about Jesus. His neighbors began threatening him. But all that Rupesh knew was that Jesus was real, and that he wouldn’t leave Him.
Over the next six years, the persecution grew. Rupesh’s family was opposed by the village and the local village council, known as a “panchayat.” Panchayats have a lot of power over the lives of tribe members. Indian law is designed to protect these tribal groups and their traditional ways of life, to give them additional support. So panchayats have the power to resolve small disputes, decide who can access government-provided aid, and decide who can use local resources like water wells.
Even among the hardships, the little community of Christians in Rupesh’s village grew. A few other families began to attend church with Rupesh and his family. Their little fellowship was growing, slowly but surely.
But they didn’t know they were being watched.
Hindu extremists were watching Rupesh and the other Christians. Despite the fact that Rupesh’s tribe is not Hindu, Hindu extremists were still opposed to any change in faith or status of people from the village. But why would they care if someone from this tribe of outcasts became a Christian?
“Once a tribe member becomes a Christian, the authority of the higher castes over these believers is no longer valid,” explains an Indian Open Doors partner. “Their hold on them is reduced.” When these Christian converts discover their true value in Christ, the old caste system doesn’t matter to them anymore; they are no longer outcasts. But Hindu extremists want these tribe members to know their place—and to stay there.
Rupesh and his little group of believers were no exceptions to this mindset. So their church was attacked. “Hindu extremists came in a big mob and surrounded our church,” Rupesh remembers. “They demanded that we stop praying in the name of Jesus, and instead go back to our animist faith. We were threatened with dire consequences if we did not pay heed. About 50 of them went on to break down the church in front of us as we watched helplessly.”
Even this did not deter Rupesh and his community of faith. “The Hindu extremists were watching us, we knew it, but we did not give up,” he says. “God has called us to worship Him together. Instead of one big group, we gathered as two or three families and prayed together.”
‘I silently prayed for protection’
It wasn’t long before the next attack took place. “After about two weeks, suddenly, the same men came and surrounded my home,” Rupesh says. “Loudly, they shouted threats asking me to come out. With deep hatred, they said, ‘How dare you disobey what we told you?’
“I was pulled out of my house, and the blows I felt landing on my back and belly made me cry out in pain,” he continues. “My wife was not spared, and they struck out at her as well. I couldn’t do anything to save her. Strong men held me down from both sides.”