Christians flee village after death threat, Odisha.
Religious fanatics threatened to kill a Christian family after they refused to contribute offerings towards a Hindu ritual.
The ‘Ho’ people are an Austroasiatic speaking ethnic group of India. They are an Adivasi people group concentrated in the states of Jharkhand and Odisha, where they constitute around 10.5% of the schedule tribes. Sarojini Bengra belongs to the Ho people group. In 2005, she accepted Jesus Christ as her Saviour and Lord. Since then she has been leading a small group of Christians, who regularly gather to pray and worship at a place called Gundaikudhur which is around 8kms away from her village in the Mayurbhanj district of the state of Odisha, India.
Sarojini serves with the Indian Evangelical Mission(IEM). She travels on a bicycle along with her son to conduct worship services at the Gundaikudhur village where more than 8 families gather to pray and worship at the home of a fellow believer named Ranjit. Sarojini lives with her Husband Ramayana Bengra and her son Madhusan Bengra. They are the only Christian family that live in the village.
The past few months have been challenging for Sarojini and her family as a few religious enthusiasts from their village are persecuting them because of their faith. These regular attacks on the family are being lead by a man named Raju.
On 16/02/20, Sarojini returned from the usual Sunday Worship service. As she reached her home, a few villagers approached her and demanded that she contributes offerings towards the Hindu gods as part of the prayer rituals for a forthcoming Hindu festival. Sarojini refused to participate, at which a few members of the group threatened her saying, “if you don’t contribute, we will kill you!” Although a bit fearful after the threat, Sarojini still held her ground till the angry villagers left.
The bitter clash between Sarojini and the local villagers made her loose her peace. Fearing the worst for her family, she has made 13 complaints to the Police since then. However, as the time of the Hindu festival is drawing near, the police themselves do not want trouble with the villagers but are procrastinating and are not taking any action against the perpetrators.
A while back, Persecution Relief spoke with Sarojini on a conference call with a translator named Gideon who serves with IEM, as Sarojini only speaks Oriya. She told us that a few days ago, a group of religious fanatics lead by Raju, came to her house. They were terribly drunk and started abusing the family, creating chaos in the neighbourhood. They had cycle chains in their hands and threatened to kill the family with it. Petrified, Sarojini and her husband quietly escaped from the fanatics, without their knowledge and hid at a fellow believers home that night. Currently, they are hiding in another believers home at a different village. Their son had to stay back at their own village to take care of the cattle.
Pray that Sarojini and her family would be able to safely move back home and continue serving the Lord. Pray that Raju and the other persecutors would refrain from harassing Sarojini and her family. Also pray that they would come to know Jesus Christ as the one and only true living God.
‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty’. Psalm 91:1 . It is the Most High who is our Shelter. He assures us in His Word what He is, hence he is our security. How blessed we are to have a God who is ‘Mighty to save’.
Between January 2016 to December 2019, there has been a rise of 59.6% of Hate Crimes against Christians all across the country. In 2019 alone, Persecution Relief has recorded the maximum number of 527 cases compared to 447 cases in 2018, 440 in 2017 and 330 in 2016.
What stands out amongst the Hate Crimes in India is that 4 Christians were murdered in 2019. We recorded 199 incidents related to Threats, Intimidations & Harassments against Christians, 104 incidents of Church attacks, 85 incidents of Physical Violence reported which includes Women & Children, 100s of House Churches were forcefully closed down by Religious Fanatics and the local administrations.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has showed a shocking 179.4% leap in cases of Christian Persecution between 2016 to 2019! From 39 cases being reported in 2016, the number has sky rocketed to 109 cases in 2019 alone bringing the total count from across the country to 527 cases. Uttar Pradesh has proved to be the most hostile state in the country against Christians for the past 3 consecutive years. Tamil Nadu continues to rank as the second most hostile state in the country with 75 cases, followed by Karnataka with 32 cases, bringing the state of Maharashtra to number 4 with 31 cases and Bihar with 30 cases stands at number 5.
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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