Pastors Home Set On Fire, Odisha.
The home of a Pastor was set ablaze by a group of religious fanatics at a village in Kalahandi, a district in the Indian state of Odisha. By the time the fire was quenched, most of the house was already damaged. “Even a cycle which was parked outside along with other valuables were burnt to ashes” said Pastor Udav Pradhan, who lives in this house along with his mother, brother, wife and son.
Pastor Udav called Persecution Relief to report this attack which took place on the 30th of June 2020. “I was in my room praying while everyone else has retired to bed. All of a sudden, I began to smell something burning. When I went to check, I was shocked to see my house on fire!” he said. Without wasting anytime, the Pastor alerted the family and rushed to disconnect the 2 gas cylinders inside his home and put them in a safe place. “I thank God that at the right time He helped us and because of Him we are alive, or we would have burned to ashes with 2 gas cylinders at home” he said.
Speaking to Persecution Relief, Ishwar Pradhan, Pastor Udav’s brother who is also a Pastor said, “We have been living in this village for 20 years. But for the past few months because of our faith in Jesus Christ, there are a few people here who have been harassing us.” He told us that the fanatics threatened to burn and kill them if they did not forsake Christ as both the brothers are Pastors and serve the Lord.
Raj Pradhan, Pastor Udav’s son told Persecution Relief how the religious fanatics had recently attacked his father and Uncle. Raj who is a Bible college student studying in Delhi, returned home on the 25th of June 2020 and was required to quarantine himself at a lodge.
Pastor Udav and his brother went to drop Raj off at the lodge that very night. “My father and Uncle were heading back home after dropping me off but were stopped by the religious goons on their way back. They started abusing them and beating them saying, ‘There is no place for Christians in this village, leave immediately.’ since the past few months the harassment has gotten worse” Raj added.
Pastor Ishwar explained that the family had requested the village authorities to put Raj up at an Aanganwadi Centre(a type of rural child care centre in India) instead of a lodge which is much more expensive. “Even though we got the permission, the fanatics accused us of being selfish on account of our Christian faith and told us that we cannot live in the village if we want to do things our way. Ultimately, they made sure that Raj was not allowed to stay at the Aanganwadi. He is presently staying at the lodge at a huge cost” he said.
Pastor Ishwar further elaborated that the fanatics kept calling and harassing him that evening but he chose not to take their calls. At around 11:30pm, the same fanatics who were waiting for them, stopped them on the road. “They started verbally abusing and threatening us and then began to beat us up.”
A Complaint was made at Junagarh Police station. No arrests have been made so far.
Speaking to Persecution Relief, Pastor Udav Pradhan said that on the 26th of June 2020, at around 9am, they came to his house and threatened to kill them, burn their house and throw them out of the village. “Both me and my brother serve and work for the Lord. Roughly 1000 people live in the village, among whom 8 families are Christian. Before the lockdown, these families used to gather to worship at our house” he added.
The family live in the interior of the village. There is just one approach road that they can use to get in and out of the village. “Whenever we venture out, the fanatics abuse us and threaten us saying that Christians should not use this road and they harass us whenever we go to get water” said Pastor Ishwar Pradhan.
The family has requested the church to stand with them in prayer. They have faced tremendous loss from this attack. Both brothers have committed to serve and work for the Lord and be faithful till the end. They have no other livelihood. Pray for Gods protection, provision and comfort over the family. Pray for them to find strength during this challenging time. Let us also remember the group of religious fanatics. With God all things are possible including drawing these fanatics to Himself. Pray that they would be transformed and would not be slaves to evil.
Persecution Relief is presently supporting the family financially to rebuild and restore the area of the house that was destroyed by the fire.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
This world is full of unforeseen challenges and uncertainties. During such times, we can be anxious, we can live with fear, or we can trust in a faithful God. Let our faith in the Father be bigger than any fear. Our faith must be more powerful than our fears.
We may not know what it’s like to wake up inside a burning house. But we can know the peace that Jesus gives as we chose to walk with Him. He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, till the very end.
From January 2016 to March 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 1961 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India. In the 1st Quarter of 2020, we recorded 187 cases. Between 1st Quarter of 2016 to 1st Quarter of 2020, there has been a rise of 128.04 % of Hate Crimes against Christians all across the country. In 1st Quarter of 2016, we have recorded 82 cases, in 2017 – 134, 2018 – 117, 2019 – 130 and in 2020 we recorded 187 cases of Christian Persecution. 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.
In 2019 we have 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. 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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