PRAYER TO PERSECUTION,ODISHA
Religion has always been a very sensitive yet unavoidable topic in India. It is woven into the very tapestry of the country. An average Indian may have an acquaintance from almost every religious community in the country and may have never considered religious orientation as a condition of their relationships, but somehow, over the years the poison of religious nationalism has insidiously crept into even the most remote and far-flung villages of India. There was a time when the country could easily conceal the truth about the growing unrest between religious communities, but of late, the escalatingintolerance towards religious minorities has put the country in the spot light. People across the globe have begun to ponder and even experience the hostilities of not being amongst the religious majority of the largest democracy in the world.
Over a month ago, the story of a man almost being killed by religious fanatics in Odisha came to light. Severely ailing from a sickness that took the lives of 3 of his young children, Kama Sodi is a sorry sight whose body is reduced to mere skin andbones! He lives with his wife and 2 younger children aged 5 and 3 respectively in the district of Malkangiri, and is no stranger to suffering, pain and agony. As if the couple was not distressed enough about loosing their little children, local religious goons made it even more difficult for them to survive, only because they had found a faith that made sense to them.
Over a year ago, Kama had run out of options to find a cure for his sickness. There were a lot of recommendations from friends and family, however everything he tried proved to be futile. A few people from Kodalmetla- his village had heard about healings taking place at a Christian Church nearby and suggested that he should go there. Kama, accompanied by his wife, having nothing to lose but his life, set out to visit the Church which is 12kms away in a place called Hebronpalli.
There, he met Kosha Muchaki who pastors the little congregation which meets at his uncle’s home. Pastor Kosha gladly offered to pray for Kama, who almost instantaneously started feeling better. That day, he went home knowing that he had experienced a breakthrough. This was very evident to him and his family. They soon began to regularly attend Church and life seemed to improve and become more bearable.
In the course of time, another man named Mala Markhami from Kama’s village fell seriously ill. Being a witness to Kama’s miraculous healing, the villagers immediately suggested that he go for prayers to the Church. The villagers were right, Mala was healed too! Soon, Kama’s family, Mala’s family and another family began to regularly meet to pray together. These families had discovered a faith that had brought great peace and transformation to their lives.
On the 11th of March 2020, at around 1pm in the afternoon, 10 people including Kama had gathered at Mala’s home to pray. During the meeting, a few religious fanatics who were under the influence of alcohol, barged into the house. They created a chaos, beating up their own neighbours and accusing them of converting people to Christianity. What was astonishing was that they were the same people who had pointed out Kama and Mala to the Church. When their rage died down, they warned the Christians to never gather to pray again.
That night, the Christians went home perplexed. What just happened? What had caused the sudden change of heart among their own neighbours? Little did they know about the diabolic scheme that would be executed the following day.
Kama Sodi woke up as usual the next morning. As he stepped outside his home, what he beheld, had suddenly gripped him with fear. His home was surrounded by the same fanatics that had attacked him the previous night along with a few more locals who had joined in. They were all wielding bamboo sticks and had a tractor trolley with them. A few of them ran towards Kama and began to beat him up with the bamboo sticks while the others rushed into Kama’s home and started taking out Kama’s household items, including the TV, utensils, furniture etc. and loading it onto the trolley of the tractor. All Kama’s family could do was to scream and yell for help. Sadly, the spectators were held captive by fear and did not interfere. A few men then drove the tractor around 3kms away to a piece of land which belongs to Kama and dumped all the items there.
Kama Sodi was beaten so mercilessly that he fell to the ground, unconscious. He was repeatedly whacked with sticks on his head, back and legs. He was admitted with severe internal and external injuries into the Malkangiri BSS Government hospital,where he received treatment for almost a week.
When Pastor Kosha Muchaki was informed about the attack, he went to the Malkangiri Police station and lodged a complaint.The police soon addressed the matter. They went to the village and spoke to the people who were responsible for this crime. They were asked to stop harassing the Christians and return all the items that were taken out of Kama’s house.
“After all these weeks, Kama is still in terrible pain. Most of the items that were taken out of the house were brought back damaged or destroyed, but he is very sure about his Christian faith.” Said Pastor Kosha, in conversation with Persecution Relief. The Covid-19 nationwide lockdown has only added to their misery., The effects of the lockdown have taken a huge toll on them as the family has not yet recovered from the ordeal. Speaking to Persecution Relief, Kama said, “The fanatics are still threatening us, but where do we go? We have no other options!”
Ever since that fateful day, Kama has suffered and struggled with his health. Let us pray that God will restore him back to good health. Also keep his family in prayer. The religious fanatics still threaten and harass him daily. Pray that God would put and end to this and draw their hearts unto him.
Consider again the words of our Lord Jesus, who said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Bad things will happen to all of us in this life, but let’s put our hope in God. He will never leave you nor forsake you, no matter what situation you are in.
‘Hope’ for the Christian youth is not just a widely used word.Our hope does not come from the government and the authorities. Hope doesn’t ever come from a great education or good Job. A Genuine Christian will hope only in God’s salvation, his power and presence, to be manifest in life and death. Christian hope and the power of Christ’s resurrection go hand in hand. Is that power at work in you?
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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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