Upcoming Christmas event stalled by fanatics, Pastor threatened, Karnataka
Pastor Teju Chavan in white shirt
It is a well known fact that Christianity is a faith that advocates peace. Next month Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who is also known as the Prince of Peace. In reality, people of all religions look forward to Christmas, as this festival of peace has gained a reputation of inspiring brotherly love, generosity and joyous get-togethers.
Churches all over the country are gearing up to celebrate Christmas, but this time is also a sad reminder of the horrible attacks that happened over the past few years during Christmas gatherings, Carol singing and open air programs.
We at Persecution Relief recieved a call on our Toll Free Number 1800-1234-461 from Pastor Teju Chavan narrating the persecution he is facing with regards to Christmas preparations and the Church he serves.
Pastor Teju who has been ministering for 21 long years in the Bijapur district of the state of Karnataka, India, works amongst a settlement of a nomadic tribe called the Banjaras. They are also known by other names such as Laman, Lambadi, Vanjari etc. Although they can be found across India, the majority of their population live in the northern state of Rajasthan, India. Pastor Teju gathers a church that mostly consists of around 200 believers from the same tribe hence with great fondness he calls it the ‘Banjara Church.’ He also built a structure with a tin shed on his own property so that the Church could gather together to praise and worship Jesus Christ.
With great excitement and anticipation, Pastor Teju and the church carefully planned and scheduled a beautiful Christmas program. He then designed an invitation in the format of a poster inviting everyone to the Christmas celebration on behalf of the Banjara Church. With the internet being an effective method to broadcast any information, Pastor Teju then circulated the invitation on social media. He recieved an good response over all but there were some religious enthusiasts who hated the idea. These men got together and made a mountain out of a mole hole. They begun gathering people and started turning them against the Pastor saying that he lured the tribal folk to convert to Christianity by bribing them with money. The religious fanatics hyped the issue to such an extent that they lead a rally in front of the District Collector’s (DC) office on 2/11/19 to protest against the Pastor and all the plans of the Banjara Church.
During the protest, they took objection against the name of the Church saying that the word ‘Banjara’ should not be used and submitted a memorandum asking them to change the name of the Church and to remove the word ‘Banjara’ from the Christmas program poster and invitation.
The Pastor told Persecution Relief that even the DC felt that he had done wrong by using the name ‘Banjara’, and asked him to change the name as soon as possible. No one was willing to understand why the Pastor who with great love and dedication had reasonably named the Church after the Banjara tribe as they belonged to the kingdom of God. Instead they falsely accused him of being one who was exploiting them. As the news of the protest spread, a few media persons also collected outside the office. Being put under tremendous pressure, the Pastor then emerged and spoke to the awaiting media people and agreed to remove the word ‘Banjara’ from the poster and the church board.
It has only been a couple of days since we heard about the horrifying ordeal that Pastor Tukaram and his wife went through during the Sunday Worship. It almost seems like these religious fanatics are well aware of Churches and Christian gatherings and pre plan attacks on Christians by foolishly holding them responsible for religious conversions amongst other allegations. The most demoralizing part is we often observe that the administration of our Country, indirectly supports the persecutors.
We also had an opportunity to console and prayerfully encourage Pastor Teju’s son, Dayasagar. “They have threatened us, warning us not to have any more church gatherings” he said, almost in tears. His voice was gripped with fear as he pleaded us to stand with him and the family.
What started off as a beautiful dream of a spirit filled Christmas ended being an unanticipated nightmare for Pastor Teju and the Church. As we approach the wonderful season of Christmas, let us commit every Christian entity within our Country into his trust worthy hands.
Persecution Relief has recorded 330 incidents of hate crime against Christians in 2016, 440 incidents in 2017, 477 incidents in 2018 and till August 2019 we have recorded 302 incidents of Christian Persecution against Christians in India.
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