On Wednesday, 24th April 2019, “Jesus with us” Churchhad gathered for a fasting prayer meeting. The meeting concluded late in the evening and after everybody had left, Pastor Sachin Paneerselvam, locked up the sanctuary and left for his home, around 12 kms away at Thittacherry Nagapattinam.
A few hours after reaching, Pastor recounts that he and his family were getting ready for bed when he got a call from the local Police at 11.00 pm. The Police from the local Naneelan Police Station, told him that the Church building was on fire.
Alarmed at the news, Pastor’s natural reaction was to rush to the Church, to help put out the fire and salvage the contents. However, the Police were adamant that he should not come to the spot as firefighters were battling the blaze. Police said that they would investigate the cause of the fire as that they had no idea if it was an arson attack or an electric short circuit which caused the fire.
Speaking through an interpreter to Persecution Relief, a shaken Pastor Sachin said that he waited for day break to rush to the Church, but nothing could prepare him for what greeted his eyes!!
The Church building, made of wooden pillars and reapers, supporting by thatched roof from coconut palm fronds, was completely gutted.
“The entire Church structure has been reduced to ashes. Along with the Pulpit, musical instrument, microphones, floor mats, Holy Bibles, Song books and around Rs. 7000/- of Church offering that was left in the cupboard, were completely burnt or robbed”.
“We have no enemies and we are peaceful people. In fact, we had no suspicion that such a thing might happen. I cannot believe that somebody would have done this to us deliberately”.
The loss is estimated at around Rs. 35,000/- (thirty-five thousand).
Pastor Sachin who ministers with “Jesus with us” Church, in Sannanallur village, Thiruvarur District, Tamil Nadu, builtthis Church around 4 years ago. The land located in a remote area, was leased from the land owners for Rs. 1000/- per month. Over 40 locals attend the Church regularly.
In spite of this unfortunate turn of events, Pastor Sachin and his congregation were adamant and resilient not to let this incident be a setback. Within 48 hours, armed with brooms and bags, volunteers and members of the congregation, helped clean up the damage and debris caused by the arson fire and looting.
They bought new wooden poles and erected metal sheets on top of them, to make a makeshift shelter, so that they could gather and worship the Lord at the same place. By the grace of God, Sunday worship service went ahead as scheduled.
“It was such a morale boost to see the community resilient, joining hands and fearlessly gathering to worship,in a time like this.”
While condemning the violence, local Church Leader, Bro. Jayakumar, told Persecution Relief that Pastor Sachin is determined that his only objective is to obey and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ and worship him.
“I have forgiven the persecutors. I do not know who did this, but my God knows. I will not pursue this matter legally with the Police as I have forgiven them, just like Jesus commanded me”, said Pastor Sachin.
Church, pray for the protection of Pastor Sachin and his congregation, and for the salvation of the persecutors, that they may come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Persecution Relief has recorded 477 persecution incidents in 2018 of which 67 incidents were recorded in Tamil Nadu– the 2nd hostile state following Uttar Pradesh.
In 2019, 20 hate crime incidents have been recorded in Tamil Nadu, in just the first quarter. Over 10 Churches have been targeted by arsonists across India.
Across the country in India, the doors of a multitude of Churches have been sealed and scores arrested on false charges of indulging in conversion activities.
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