India: Police Allow Attack on Churches, Then Arrest Christians

March 10, 2021

Persecution of Christians in India: here is yet another attack against Christians from those in India who believe that Christianity is an alien faith. In fact, Christianity has been in India since apostolic times, brought there by St. Thomas the Apostle in A.D. 52, as attested by St. Ephraim, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, among others. St. Thomas was martyred in India in A.D. 72. Today the Malankara Orthodox Church of the East still survives there, an apostolic Church that broke with Holy Orthodoxy over the Council of Chalcedon in 451. There also remains a small number of Orthodox Christians under the jurisdiction of the the Holy Metropolis of Singapore. Roman Catholics and Protestants came to the Indian Subcontinent much later. Yet as this article shows, Christians are frequently persecuted in India, mistreated and even brutalized. This persecution occasionally turns violent.

Christians of the ancient apostolic Churches are less often subjected to this treatment than are evangelical Protestants, but this persecution is a matter of concern for all Christians, and for all people of good will who believe in the dignity of every human person and in every person’s freedom to worship as his or her conscience dictates.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“Police in India Allow Attack on Churches, then Arrest Christians,” Morning Star News, March 3, 2021:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Armed Hindu extremists in Madhya Pradesh, India disrupted worship services at two churches on Feb. 7, beat congregation members and pressured police to arrest more than 20 Christians on suspicion of forcible conversion, sources said.

Under a new anti-conversion ordinance that came into effect in the state on Jan. 9, Udaigarh police in Alirajpur District charged one of the two churches’ pastors with forcible conversion.

Pastor Malsingh Meda and 21 members of his church in Bhamdakhapar village were arrested, as was pastor Dilipsingh Vasunia, who leads a church in Jambukheda village. Pastor Meda was released at 1 a.m. on Feb. 8, and Pastor Vasunia was charged with forcible conversion and obtained bail on Feb.10.

Though police reached both villages before the Hindu extremist attacks on the worship services, they did nothing to stop the damage to the church buildings or the assaults on the Christians, eyewitnesses told Morning Star News.

“I was conducting the service when one of them [Hindu extremists], carrying a gun, came and slapped me twice on my face,” Pastor Meda told Morning Star News. “Then another man carrying a gun approached me and slapped me, then three others carrying wooden sticks came one after another and hit me with the sticks.”

Before attacking his church, the mob belonging to the hindu extremist Hindu Yuva Janjati Sangathan (Hindu Youth Tribe Organization, HYJS) had disrupted the Sunday service of Pastor Vasunia’s congregation. Two Hindu extremists were brandishing guns as the mob questioned worshippers and searched their belongings, video on social media shows.

The mob is seen questioning women, checking their Bibles and rummaging through their bags. Police follow the assailants but do not stop them. Officers later detained Pastor Vasunia and his nephew, Bhajan Vasunia, and took them to the Udaigarh police station on suspicion of forcible conversion, said Abhishek Ninama, a relative of the pastor.

The same mob then left for Bhamdakhapar village, where they assaulted Pastor Meda and other male worshippers while two policemen stood idle outside the church building.

“My son was stopped by two policemen from entering the church, and he witnessed that a group of Hindu extremists pushed the two policemen aside and made their way into the church carrying guns,” Pastor Meda said.

Congregation women ran to a room and locked themselves inside to escape assault, he said. Among male church members beaten with wooden sticks was a senior citizen, the pastor said.

The mob also desecrated a cross and Bible, confiscated Christian literature and damaged church property and parked vehicles, Pastor Meda said. The Hindu mob divided into groups.

“One group entered the church and, locking the door from inside, they began to assault me and all the male members, while another group damaged all the vehicles parked outside the church,” he said. “Yet another group climbed the roof and broke the roof with heavy stones. They then began to attack us with stones by throwing them from the roof. They aimed a huge stone at my wife, and she barely escaped it.”

Pastor Meda called a police hotline, and the attackers fled – to the Udaigarh police station, where they were waiting when officers brought Pastor Meda and 21 church members for interrogation, he said. HYJS members had filed a complaint of forcible conversion.

Six children, some as young as a few months old, accompanied their mothers at the police station, where church members waited for hours before they were released.

“They were asked if they were allured to attend church, and what kind of benefits they have been offered to become Christians,” Pastor Meda said. “Women boldly testified how their husbands had been drunkards, how some had had prolonged sickness, how some had been possessed by a demon, and how they had been cured by coming to church and by putting their faith in Jesus.”

Officer P.S. Damor told Morning Star News that police had made the arrests based on a complaint from a relative of a person alleged to have been converted by allurement.

Nine men including Pastor Meda were detained, with eight of them released that evening and the pastor later that night at 1 a.m.

Pastor Vasunia’s nephew was also let go, while officers put him and Pastor Meda in the same cell.

Hindu Extremist Agitation

Pastor Meda said Hindu extremists surrounded the police station clamoring for charges against the Christians well past 11 p.m.

“We could not see them, but we could hear a huge mob shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram [Hail lord Ram]’ and a lot of movement of the mob around the police station,” he said.

A local Christian who requested anonymity told Morning Star News that he visited the police station that night to enquire about the pastors.

“Around 8 in the evening, about 300 men belonging to the Hindu organizations had surrounded the police station. They were shouting slogans demanding them to be booked under stringent laws,” said the source, who fled the area fearful of attack by the agitated mob.

HYJS District President Dilip Chauhan told media that for several months the organization has gone to every police station in Alirajpur District with “proofs” to get Christian pastors arrested.

“We go to the church and catch hold of the pastor and bring him to the police station to be arrested,” Chauhan reportedly said on Feb. 7. “HYJS demands that an FIR [First Information Report] be registered against Pastor Dilip Vasunia under the new anti-conversion ordinance 2020 of forceful conversion, and if this does not happen, we will stage a protest.”

Police later that day charged Pastor Vasunia under the new anti-conversion ordinance.

Office Damor confirmed the charge.

“We have booked Dilipsingh Vasunia under the new anti-conversion ordinance 2020 on charges of forcefully converting the complainant’s relative,” Damor told Morning Star News. “We have done our investigation and found the allegation to be true.”…

India ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020….