Christians in India who refused to renounce Christ and reconvert to their tribal religion are threatened to be banished from their village.
Members of 12 Christian families were dragged to local leaders last month and demanded them to reconvert their religion. Village leaders of Mahuatoli village, Gumla District in Jharkhand state forced the Christians to undergo a water purification rite which they believed would make a person deny Christ. Those who refused to return to the Sarna religion were threatened with death, reports Morning Star News.
“Threats have always been there in this area in Gumla District, but it had never escalated to this point that the Sarna extremists vowed to take lives,” said area pastor Boyen Munda.
We stood strong in faith and decided that no matter what happens, we will not give up our faith. —Gangadhar Munda, Christian
Pastor Munda disclosed that a mob of 20 villagers attacked a house of a Christian recently. The widowed mother and his son, who have been Christians for 17 years, were forced to bow to the goddess idol. “The village heads plotted to kill the mother and son if they find them praying any day after the ‘reconversion ritual,” he said.
“But they [10 Christian families] stood against the plots devised by the most powerful religious extremists,” Pastor Munda added.
Several Christians in the village have left their homes and sought refuge to neighboring villages. Those who remained were denied basic living necessities, such as water supply and power connection.
The pastor worried that Christians who left wouldn’t be able to plow their fields and would go hungry next year.
Gangadhar Munda, one of the Christians who were forced to undergo the Sarna ritual, revealed that, “The Sarna religious heads and village council were present. In front of the villagers, they declared us as ‘polluted’ and that the village should be cleansed from Christianity.”
Village leaders ordered the community to stop any interactions with the Christians, whether social or business. The Christians voiced their opposition to the leaders’ edict, but were ridiculed. “We stood strong in faith and decided that no matter what happens, we will not give up our faith,” he said.
According to Advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, nearly 160 incidents of hostilities against Christians have been recorded in the first half of 2019.
Andreas Thonhauser, director of external relations at ADF International, said persecution against Christians in India worsened with the re-election of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “While Modi won his first elections primarily on economic and reform-oriented ideas, this time his party focused on Indian identity and the Hindu nation,” he explained.
“Anti-Christian sentiment is not a new phenomenon. Nevertheless, the situation has grown worse since the current ruling party’s rise to power in 2014,” wrote Thonhauser.