“I’d Rather Die Than Forsake Jesus”
Chandan Devi lay on the floor, her shoulder bruised from the blow she had just received. The door shut with a loud bang. Did her husband scream when they dragged him out of his house? We didn’t dare ask. 35-year-old Chandan wipes her tears away with the end of her sari. She is a child of God, mother of four and now, a widow for Jesus’ sake. Welcome to India.
Pastor Aadarsh (40), his wife Chandan and their four children lived in a village in Central India where Naxalite militants are very active. This Maoist group fights for the rights of tribal groups and often views Christians as traitors to their cause and informants of the police. In the last ten years, thousands of Christians have been attacked, beaten-up, kidnapped, raped and killed by these Naxalites.
But it’s the individual, smaller stories that are the most heartbreaking. Aadarsh was a faithful pastor and led 25-30 people from a certain tribe to Christ. All of them were previously animist believers. Chandan describes him as a prayerful person who specifically had a heart for youth. “He encouraged them to not join the Maoists but instead finish their studies to achieve something in life.”
The Naxalites were very upset with his activities, and a group of 30 men forced their way into Aadarsh and Chandan’s home. None of the children were present. “They shouted that they were going to kill him. I begged them to end my life too. When they dragged him outside the house, I clung to him. They hit me hard on my shoulder and I dropped to the floor. The door shut and they disappeared into the jungle where Aadarsh was then murdered.”
It took the villagers a few hours to discover his lifeless body in the bush. Because of the remote location of the village and the dense forest, the police were unable to help and villagers were too afraid to interfere during the assault. The funeral was led by the wife of a pastor who had led Aadarsh to Christ and was a spiritual father to him. None of the Christian men were able to come due to the high risks.
Shortly after his death, volunteers sponsored and trained by Open Doors visited Chandan, who had fled her village. “We first bought her groceries and clothes,” a group member says. “She had left her village with only the clothes on her back and was in desperate need of practical help. This comforted her.”
The meeting was intense. Chandan was obviously still in shock. She recounted the story with bursts of short sentences. When she was asked, “Do you consider leaving Jesus?”, she replied, “I’d rather die.”
The Open Doors volunteers tried to encourage her with God’s Word. They read Jesus’ words in John 15:18-20:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
“She listened silently,” one of our group members says. “When we prayed over her, she cried. She was comforted by our visit and prayers. We stay in touch with Chandan over the phone and she told us she still feels very troubled. One of her children is married, the other three are in boarding school. She is under a lot of pressure.”