[above photo: remains of church building in Kospundi village after extremist attack]
Christian villagers in the rural district Gadchiroli in India’s Maharashtra state have been told that one church will be closed down every week because they have been “destroying” local tradition and culture by “luring” others to convert to Christianity, according to a report from World Watch Monitor.
Since June, more than a dozen houses belonging to Christians have been attacked by local extremist groups across five villages within Gadchiroli district.
Christians in the villages of Halwar, Tekla, Bharagad, Kospundi and Alenga have also been told that if they pursue Christianity, they will be cut off from local water supplies and will no longer have access to government-subsidized groceries.
Social Boycotts and Physical Threats
The latest incident took place on Sunday, August 5, in Kospundi, when a local Christian, Gallu Kowasi, was badly beaten by locals demanding that he renounce his faith.
According to a trusted local source, the extremists are being “propelled” by the government in the name of a law on self-governing in tribal areas: the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1998.
Several Christians have received death threats or have been threatened with expulsion from their village, while new converts to Christianity face being ostracized from both their family and the local community.
“If one person in the family is converted to Christianity, the rest of the family unites with the village and all of them immediately socially boycott that person,” World Watch Monitor’s source explained.
“The new Christian convert will be given no job in the village, and no one will come to help him with his work. The social boycott is just the start. Thereafter, the new convert is threatened constantly to leave his faith; he can be easily attacked and his house attacked.”
Most of the attacks on Christian homes took place at the end of June in protest of the construction of a new church in Halwar village. Fifteen houses were vandalized in protest against the building of a church in Halwar village.
On June 27, the church construction was forcibly brought to a halt by a mob and a public meeting was called, during which the Christians were told to renounce their faith or leave the village. Following the meeting, 15 houses belonging to Christian families were attacked.
The Christians of Bharagad village filed a complaint with police, but the authorities took no action. Instead, the Christians later received letters warning them against making any further complaints.
After three Christian families in Koskundi village went to the police, a mob of around 100 people gathered around the police station, demanding that any and all Christians be thrown out of the village.
Praying With Rural Indian Christians
Father, we pray with our brothers and sisters in India who are under attack from all sides. We ask that you would be near to those who have been ostracized by their families and communities. Let them know you are close to their hearts. And we ask that you strengthen those who are not allowed to work because of their faith and are facing critical losses of water, food, and shelter.
God, we know that you have said we would have trouble in this world. We also know that you have said to come to you when we are burdened. So God, we come to you right now on behalf of our family in India who is suffering so much trouble and we ask that you would intervene in their lives. We ask that you would surround them with your comfort and protection and show us how we can stand beside these faithful brothers and sisters who are losing their church buildings, homes and Christian community. In your name, we pray…