Eight Christians Arrested Amid Radical Hindu Mob’s Increased Crackdown on House Churches in India

A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai, February 9, 2015. Five churches in the Indian capital New Delhi have reported incidents of arson, vandalism and burglary. The latest was reported last week when an individual stole ceremonial items. | (Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

A massive crackdown on house churches by radical Hindu groups has led to the jailing of at least eight Christians on charges of forced conversion in the Lakhimpur Khere district of Uttar Pradesh, according to the persecution advocacy group International Christian Concern.

The U.S.-based nonprofit reported Tuesday that several house churches were shut down in the district as an increasing trend of hostility against Christians in Uttar Pradesh continues.

Pastor Ram Kumar told ICC that he and another pastor named Gokran were assaulted by a mob of angry Hindus during a prayer service on Sept. 15.

When police arrived, Kumar said he and the other pastor were arrested, but not the perpetrators of the attack.

“We were around 50 people worshiping in a little hut, all of a sudden a mob of 20 Hindu radicals stormed into the hut while shouting at us using filthy and abusive language dragged me and pastor Gokran out of the hut and started to beat us,” Kumar alleges.

“[A]nd later, the police arrived and took both of us to the police station and then sent us to the jail.”

According to the ICC, both pastors were charged with blasphemy under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code banning “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

The pastors were released on bail last Friday, five days after their arrest.

Kumar told the watchdog group that he embraced Christ about five years ago after his son was healed from an “immovable condition” caused by a fatal disease. Over time, more and more people joined Kumar for prayers in his home.

“The number grew in two years’ time from one family to 50 people. Three years ago we decided to meet on Sundays. Since then, we have been worshiping in the same hut where I live with my family,” Kumar explained.

Kumar’s congregation is not alone. According to another pastor in the district named Brijraj, there has been a trend of attacks on churches in the district. He said “all the pastors in the district are on alert and the entire Christian community in a deep despair.”

ADF India, a Christian legal ministry that advocates for religious freedom, has reported extensively on crimes committed against Christians in the country.

Along with its partners, ADF India operates an online database documenting verified incidents of Christian persecution in India.

There have been several occasions in August and September where churches and Christian communities in Uttar Pradesh have had their prayer services disrupted.

Many incidents in India’s fourth-largest state accrued on Aug. 23 and 25.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith