In the midst of beatings, Indian believer cries: ‘Jesus is real!’

August 12, 2019 by Christopher Summers in Count it All Joy

“Through the blows, they kept repeatedly asking why I called myself a Christian. With each blow they said, ‘Now tell us, will you still go to church?’

 

“Through the pain, I only repeated what I knew. I kept trying to say,

 

“‘Jesus is real.

 

“‘I have seen the goodness of the Lord.

 

“‘He is merciful and life giving.’”

Rupesh says these words even as he describes the intense persecution he has endured at the hands of Hindu extremists. He says “I have seen the goodness of the Lord” in the same conversation as he recalls the way his home was destroyed, the feeling of hearing his wife be beaten, the pain of the blows to his stomach and back.

Even though his church has been destroyed, he and his family have no access to the village well and the local police decline to help, still Rupesh tells us repeatedly:

“I have seen the goodness of the Lord.”

Choosing Jesus

Rupesh is an “outcast among outcasts”—he belongs to a tribe of people in India who are considered to be even lower in status than even the lowest of the country’s notorious caste system. His tribe is a tribe of outcasts, struggling to make ends meet in the most underdeveloped parts of India, without certain access to education or employment.

And yet, he is even more of an outcast among this tribe of outcasts. Because he began following Jesus. Where Rupesh lives, this means he has essentially rejected the belief system of his people—his family and friends would view it as an ultimate betrayal.

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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.

Persecution begins

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.”

How you can pray for Rupesh

When asked how we can pray, Rupesh says, “I request that the believers pray for me. Believers from my village are facing a lot of persecution. So pray that the persecution will stop in the name of Jesus.”

• Pray for Rupesh and the other believers in his village to be able to continue to have fellowship together, even though their church has been destroyed. Pray the destroyed church and homes will be rebuilt soon. Pray that Rupesh and the other Christians will be granted access to daily necessities and drinking water.
• Pray for wisdom for Open Doors’ local partners, that they might be able to find ways to support Rupesh without endangering him and his family.
• Pray also for those who are opposing the gospel in Rupesh’s village and the surrounding area, that they might see the truth and come to know the saving grace of Jesus.

Your prayers are a huge source of comfort to Rupesh. “I am not alone,” he says. “I have many brothers and sisters who will be praying for me.”

The beatings were clearly given because of the faith in Jesus of Rupesh and his wife. “Through the blows, [the Hindu extremists] kept repeatedly asking why I called myself a Christian,” Rupesh remembers. “With each blow they said, ‘Now tell us, will you still go to church?’ Through the pain, I only repeated what I knew. I kept trying to say, ‘Jesus is real. I have seen the goodness of the Lord. He is merciful and life giving.’

“This seemed to anger them further, and they tied me up and [threw me] me into a waiting trailer,” Rupesh says. “Others climbed onto the roof of our house and started throwing down precious roof tiles. Men waiting below started to cart away those tiles to another waiting tractor trailer.”

Roof tiles are expensive for poor farmers like Rupesh. These provide structure for the simple houses which are mostly supported by wooden bamboo walls. With the roof gone, the house had no support and no protection from the elements. Wind and rain would destroy what was left standing. The extremists counted on this.

Rupesh was devastated when he saw his small home being demolished. He lived in that house for over 20 years—and he did not have the means to build it up again.

Rupesh was blindfolded and had his hands tied, and then he was taken into the woods. He begins to shake as he finishes his story. “I silently prayed for protection, that I could return to my wife to comfort her,” he says. “The villagers had boycotted us; there was nowhere she could go to ask for help. The police would not help us Christians.”

Rupesh told us that he doesn’t remember the ensuing details clearly, but there was a big argument between his captors, and they decided to let him go with a warning.

When he returned late that night, his family rejoiced to see him return safely. A fellow believer found them a place to stay for a few nights. But fearing more attacks, Rupesh decided to build a temporary hut from branches and leaves in his field nearby. He didn’t want other believers to face the same consequences for following Jesus as he had.

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‘I am with you’

Rupesh and other Christians in the village continue to be persecuted by their community. The panchayat has denied them access to the village well, and they have to travel far to find someone who is willing to sell them daily necessities. The police are unwilling to register a complaint against the people who destroyed Rupesh’s home.

Recently there was a day when Rupesh was feeling deeply discouraged. He was worried for the future of his family. There seemed to be no way ahead. But in the midst of his despair, he heard a voice in his heart: “Do not be discouraged, I am with you.” He knew immediately that it was the Lord speaking to him and assuring him to stay strong.

Encouraged greatly, he asked other believers to pray for his situation. A local pastor Rupesh knows got in touch with Open Doors’ local partners in India to ask us for prayer for Rupesh and his family. Since then, Open Doors’ local partners have supported Rupesh with prayer and emergency aid. Our partners would like to provide him with further support, but the situation in his village is still very sensitive; they are concerned if it is too obvious Rupesh is receiving outside support he and his family could be in more danger.

In the meantime, Rupesh continues to live in a community that hates him. “I don’t want to go from my village to any other place,” he says. “I will stay. Only then will God’s name be spread in my village.”

*name changed for security reasons

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