India is No. 32 on the World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. “While most Indian Christians are relatively free, many parts of the country remain key battlegrounds between Hindu extremists and Christians,” according to the list. “Violence against pastors and church gatherings continues on a monthly basis, usually in rural areas.”
Here is a sample of incidents in late September and October.
Kannur — Hindu extremists beat a pastor unconscious by the side of the road, then attacked him in his hospital bed the next day.
Pastor John Samuel Kim, from the Jerusalem prayer house in Kannur village, a few kilometers away from Kolar District, told World Watch Monitor he was standing on the road with three friends Oct. 11 after distributing wedding cards of his sister.
“A mob of 20 extremists questioned me on what I was doing in the village,” he said. “They pushed me, saying ‘Why [do] I always visit the village and tell people about Christ,’ accused me of forceful conversion and began to beat me with sticks and stones, kicked and punched me.”
The pastor fell unconscious when they kicked him in the groin. The attackers left and Kim’s friends summoned police. Kim was hospitalised with a broken rib, and injuries to his head and neck.
Early the next morning, four people entered Kim’s hospital ward.
“They told me that I should die, shook my bed and started to beat me again, and strangled me on my neck and brought a sharp weapon to cut my neck,” he said. Kim suffered a severe neck injury.
The attackers left when they heard the sound of people coming. Later, Kim provided a description of the attackers to police, who posted guard on the ward for the next seven days as the pastor recovered.
The police have registered a case against the attackers, but no arrests have been made.
Kolar District Police Superintendent Ram Niwas Seeat told World Watch Monitor that he and his team will continue to protect the pastor whenever necessary, and that they continue to search for the attackers.
The Global Council of Indian Christians, an advocacy group, said the Oct. 11 attack was the second on Kim within the past year. Three months earlier in Bangarapet, he was attacked in a similar way.
“I was crossing the flyover on my motorbike when they stopped me. They accused me of forceful conversion and beat me up,” Kim told World Watch Monitor.
The pastor did not file a police complaint after the first attack. “I have forgiven them and I thought that they will not disturb me again,” he said.
Attacks against pastors and Christian institutions have accelerated in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, where violence against Christians has been most frequent during the past nine months.
Anekal Taluk — A Christian-run child-development center accused by Hindus of forcefully converting Hindu children to Christianity has resumed operation after the Hindu parents insisted their children were getting academic, not religious, instruction.
Center director Devanand Samuel told World Watch Monitor that Karnataka police came to the center Sept. 29 with accusations that it was using food, clothes and education to lure children to Christianity. A local politician, J. Ram, added to the pressure on Oct. 10 when he threatened dire consequences if the center did not close. The centre’s staff closed the facility while they attended a retreat, “but it will resume soon,” Samuel said.
The child-development center, in Anekal Taluk, south of Bangalore, re-opened Oct. 29 after Hindu parents of the children who attend the centre met with the accusers, and told them it is not involved in any conversion and is helping the children with their studies only.
Ambednagar — Police arrested a pastor and 10 other Christians on Sept. 30 after Hindu extremists disrupted their prayer service, beat them up and accused them of stealing. Pastor Pannalal of Philadelphia Church in Ambednagar told World Watch Monitor that at about 8 p.m. the Hindus and police barged into the prayer meeting, beat them and forced them to the Jalalpur police station. The mob accused Pannalal and the believers of stealing articles from families in the area. The Christians were arrested, and released the next day on bail after the intervention of a lawyer from the Light Foundation.
Kanthapada — Hindus burst into a baptism in the Balasore District on Oct. 2 and beat Pastor Jayaram Marandi and other Christians there, accusing them of forceful conversions of Hindus. Rev. Subhash Chandra Digal told World Watch Monitor that prior to barging into the baptism service, the police had filed a police complaint against the Christians. As the meeting was starting, the extremists stormed in, and took them to the police station. The police kept Marandi and four believers in custody overnight, ostensibly for their safety as angry demonstrators gathered near the police station. The following morning, the police released the Christians without filing any charges. Pastor Marandi, then conducted the baptism without further incident.
Bhubaneswar — The Orissa state government on Oct. 1 appointed former Orissa High Court judge A. S. Naidu to take over the one-man commission investigating the 2008 killing of Laxamanananda Saraswati, a leader of the local Vishva Hindu Pariṣad, or World Hindu Council, widely known as the VHP. The riots that erupted afterward claimed the lives of several Christians and displaced thousands. The commission’s former director, Justice S. C. Mohapatra, died in May. On Oct. 22, Naidu sent summonses to 55 people, including the Cuttack then-Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, and John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council.