Being jailed, tortured and then told to leave his home changed everything. Shekhar is honest about his fears: “Sometimes when I think about this incident, I feel frightened,” Shekhar says. “My family also feels terrified. My wife is still in fear and shock and refuses to let our son be involved in ministry because we’ve seen so much pain in our lives.”
What happened to Pastor Shekhar and his family to inflict such wounds and leave such lasting scars? It started simply because they are Christians in India.
India’s constitution guarantees freedom
of religion—and by all accounts, many
Indians agree. A 2021 survey from the
Pew Research Center found that 84% of
Indians consider respecting people of
other faiths to be an important part of
their religious identity. For decades, India has been a place of respite for people of many faiths fleeing oppression.
But the same Pew study shows a dangerous undercurrent in India: 45% of Hindus say they would not accept a person from at least one of the religious minority groups in India.
And that’s the reality that left Pastor Shekhar and his family reeling.
Pastor Shekhar is a church leader from southern India. We can’t tell you where he currently lives or works—India has become so dangerous for Christians who are active in sharing the love and message of Jesus (it’s No. 10 on the 2022 World Watch List), that sharing his real name, hometown or photo could put him and his family at incredible risk. Shekhar found Jesus after someone gave him a Bible. He took it home and found himself stunned by the simple message of John 3:16. “I kept on thinking about this verse,” he remembers. “When I read the whole book, I found out that Jesus Christ had come to this world for our sins; He was beaten and crucified and was buried but rose on the third day from the dead. It made me realize that I am a sinner—that I need Jesus in my life for my salvation. And, at that moment, I rayed for repentance and accepted Jesus as my savior.”
As Shekhar followed Jesus, he was called into ministry. And because he has served God for so long in India, he’s familiar with persecution in his country. “Being a church leader, we come across people who blame us for conversion and accuse [us] of luring people with money to convert,” Shekhar says. “They say we’re now Christians and have left our gods to start following foreign gods. We have to face many challenges—our relatives say that they won’t come to our house and that our children won’t get married because we’ve changed our religion.”
But for Pastor Shekhar and his family, the persecution became much more personal—and much more violent.