Christian beaten and threatened into ‘Ghar Wapasi’, Odisha
Approximately 25kms away from Rayagada, a district in the Indian state of Odisha is a village called Gajigan. Around 8 Christian families live in this village all of whom are tribal. Pastor Anil Barno is the local Pastor who is associated with Indian Evangelical Team (IET).
Over the past few days the Christians in this village have been facing a lot of persecution from the local panchayat and religious fanatics. The trouble started on the 1st of December 2019, when the new born infant of Suman Jakaka, a tribal Christian, died and was buried at the usual place which is designated to Christians to bury their dead.
After the burial, the fanatics approached the infants family and inquired as to why the local village body was not informed before the burial as they should have used the burial ground that has been allotted to the tribal community and is next to the Christian cemetery.
They then went on to claim that their gods used to dwell at that burial site until it was used by this family who apparently made the place ‘Ashudh’(unclean)
The agitated fanatics then began arguing uncontrollably with the infants grieving father, Suman, who was besides himself and eventually grabbed him and started physically assaulting him. In spite off being beaten badly, Suman managed to escape and ran to the Sefkhal Police station and complained.
The Police called the fanatics and the tribal families and brought them to a compromise. After giving in writing that they would not harass the Christians anymore, the fanatics left.
Soon Suman also left the police station but as he approached his house, he was shocked to find the fanatics waiting for him. They surrounded him and demanded that he paid Rs15000 so that they could cleanse the ‘Ashudh'(unclean) burial grounds.
Still traumatised from the earlier attack, a petrified Suman replied, “from where will I bring the money? I don’t have so much money?” but the relentless group would not take ‘No’ for an answer. They started abusing and threatening him to a point where he helplessly agreed to pay Rs5000 over a span of 3 months.
On 10/12/19 a man from the village died. The fanatics swiftly came to Suman saying, “we need to bury the dead and the place is unclean, once you give the money, we can conduct a ‘pooja’(Hindu idol worship including rituals and offerings) and cleanse the place so that we can use the burial grounds.” Suman, who only had Rs5000 at that time, offered to pay that amount but they insisted on the full payment.
Taking advantage of the situation, the fanatics and the village headmen mercilessly told Suman and his family to leave the village if he did not pay and threatened him with dire consequences if he refused. They also gave him an option of returning to the old faith(Hinduism) after which he and his family could continue staying.
Creating an even more intense atmosphere in the village, the fanatics and headmen imposed a fine of Rs500 on any villager who spoke to any of the Christian families, unknowingly 2 people spoke to them and were fined Rs500 each.
Under tremendous pressure and fear of social boycott, Suman Jakaka apologized to the village headmen for receiving the Christian faith saying that it was a mistake and expressed his desire of staying peacefully in the village. The headmen agreed.
8 families use to assemble at the residence of Sadana but since 01-12-2019 all meetings have been stopped and Pastor Anil has not been allowed to enter the village.
Speaking to Persecution Relief, the Area Coordinator Israel Khosla said, “the Christians are very fearful and clueless because the fanatics are threatening to kill them if they don’t leave the village.
These days, many villages are scheming against Christians in order to force them into Ghar Wapsi (returning to the original faith) or socially boycott them.
The Bible promises- For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Hebrews 3:14.
Let us pray for Suman and his family and many others who have succumbed due to fear. Pray for the strengthening of our faith as Christians , that we may stand strong and be faithful till the end and none should be lost.
Persecution Relief has recorded 330 incidents of hate crime against Christians in 2016, 440 incidents in 2017, 477 incidents in 2018 and till September 2019 we have recorded 349 incidents of Christian Persecution against Christians in India
US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) ranked India’s persecution severity at “Tier 2” along with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, ranking just behind Iran in persecution severity.
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