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INDIA: 200-strong mob attacks church

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At least 22 Christians in India have been injured after a 200-strong mob attacked a church in the southern state of Telangana. The violence occurred over a land dispute, and seems to have been led by Hindu nationalistS.

“The Christians have not recovered from their shock,” shares Nitish*, a local believer who witnessed the attack. “The injured victims are recovering while others are afraid of what is going to happen next.”

Attack over road dispute

The clash started when believers at the church were told that their building would be demolished for a road expansion. Tensions had arisen after a group of villagers demanded the road to be widened eight feet into the compound of the Methodist Church in the Janwada village area of Rangareddy district. The Christians protested, and that’s when things turned violent.

“The argument became strong, and suddenly around 200 people barged into the church with hockey sticks, stones and wooden sticks,” shares Nitish. “When the believers tried to stop them, they beat them mercilessly and broke everything that was inside the church.

He adds, “The church believers are from poor backgrounds, and most of them are uneducated. They were not prepared or never expected such persecution.”

Christians singled out for persecution

“The attack on believers shows persecution,” says Priya Sharma*, a local Open Doors partner. “There are various other religious worship places along the road, and they are not demolished; why should a church be vandalised and demolished for road widening?”

She adds: “The church has been situated for a few decades in that place. If the church protested against road widening, the authorities could have taken steps to address the issue amicably.”

Nitish believes that persecutors were looking for an opportunity to attack the community. He says, “I am sure this is a pre-planned attack, and they used the issue of road widening just as a reason. The local people were influenced by political parties and religious extremists.”

Believers forced to sign documents in attackers’ favour

When the police intervened, the ordeal wasn’t over for the believers. Despite being the victims of the violence, several members of the church were arrested alongside the attackers.

“The believers did not do any harm but still the police arrested five believers along with others,” says Nitish. “When we filed a case against the attackers, they filed a counter case on 26 believers for attempt to murder.

“The imprisoned believers were terrified and forced to sign some documents in favour of the attackers. So, the attackers got bail and were released from prison immediately, whereas the believers were released on bail only two weeks later.”

“Terrified of the situation”

Open Doors local partners recently returned to encourage and pray with the vulnerable community, and spoke with Nitish to see how the congregation were feeling after the attack. “The believers have not come out of this shock yet,” he says. “The injured believers are recovering while others are afraid of what is going to happen next.

“Last Sunday, when I went to the service, I could see only a few women in the church. There was no single man, as they were terrified of the situation. Most of the men have shifted to their relatives’ houses in other villages.”

He was grateful to Open Doors partners for coming alongside the congregation: “I am very happy to meet people like you. I am encouraged to know that God’s people are there to support us in this crisis.”

*Names changed for security reasons 

PRAY NOW...
1

For the injured and traumatised to heal from this violence

3

For local Open Doors partners to have wisdom as they serve the persecuted Indian church.

2

That the right to religious freedom for all religious minorities would be recognised in India

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