Around 20 Hindu extremists in saffron-coloured clothes barged inside a church in eastern India’s Uttar Pradesh state yesterday (28 March), violently assaulting the pastor and two church members.
Shouting in extremely offensive language, they entered the Evangelical Churches of India (ECI) building in the Fatehpur district of the city, and bolted it from the inside.
The church had gathered for a monthly baptism and fasting-prayer service, as Pastor Jose Prakash from Uttar Pradesh Missions explained to World Watch Monitor: “We don’t have a baptism tank at Fatehpur central. We only assemble in the community hall of the Missions’ hospital regularly.”
Like every month, Pastor Jose Prakash sent invitations for the prayer and fasting to be conducted at Fatehpur Central prayer hall. “At least 550 people accepted the invitation and joined in worship and the Bible-study sessions that followed,” he said.
At about 3pm the Christians left the community hall in the Missions’ hospital building, after making an announcement that they would meet at the ECI church on Chuna Galli Street for the baptisms. “It was just a ten-minute walk,” he said.
He added that the Christians did not walk in a group but travelled separately.
“Just five minutes in, we were making some arrangements [for the baptisms],” he said, “and all of a sudden the 20 people in saffron clothes [associated with Hindu nationalists] appeared with wooden sticks.
“I went to talk [to them], and find what they are up to, but they held me by my collar and alleged: ‘You are carrying out conversions here!’ I tried to calm them down and make them understand that I only baptise those who come forward willingly, and there is no force.
“But they were not convinced. They started punching me, and rushed inside the kitchen in the church building and picked some knives. I did not want them to cause harm to anyone, so I quietly took the beatings.”
A young member at the church, 25-year-old Dinesh Kumar, tried to intervene, the pastor explained.
“Dinesh was badly beaten,” he said. “He received injuries to his head and eye, and a cut in his left ear.”
Dinesh Kumar, who is now in hospital, has reported suffering from severe headaches, nausea and has been continuously vomiting since yesterday.
“His condition is worsening,” the pastor said.
A new convert, who is known only as Prem, 45, and who had enrolled to be baptised, was also beaten, and is also undergoing treatment at the Missions’ hospital.
“We don’t know who called, but police arrived and asked everyone to disperse,” the pastor said. “But they took Dinesh Kumar and Prem into custody.
“From Fatehpur police station, they were taken to the government hospital for a medical, but they were not treated there. I told the police that the two require immediate medical treatment and took them to the Missions’ hospital.
“On the insistence of brother pastors, I had submitted a complaint letter at the local police station just to inform the police about the incident, but after coming back home yesterday night, I went on my knees in prayer and the Holy Spirit prompted me that I should not register a case against the 20 young men.
“I reasoned it with God, and I see two reasons – one that they are ignorant, and have no knowledge of what they have done; two, that they do not know the Lord, and His works. They are just young men in their twenties, who were instigated to take up violence.
“I told the brethren pastors, there will not be an FIR [official police complaint] or protests. I have seen much more opposition in earlier attacks, whom had later come to Christ and are now serving in 15 districts across the state.
“I urged the church and brethren pastors, if it pains them, please cry out to the Lord for the salvation of the 20 men.”