A Christian pastor and his three children have been unable to return to their village located in eastern India since he was attacked by a group of Hindu extremists on Sept. 28.
"I returned home bruised that night. My children saw me and were frightened," Pastor Raj Masih told Morning Star News. "Since we lost my wife to COVID-19 in April this year, I am all they have."
Beaten and Threatened by Extremists
Masih, 36, was at a local market only about a half-mile from his home in Simri village located in Bihar state when he was surrounded by more than two dozen Hindus. After seizing the pastor, they dragged him to a secluded area, making sure there were no witnesses, according to Morning Star.
Members of the group then kicked and punched him as they told him to stop leading worship services.
"They kept repeating, 'Stop Christian prayers! Shut down your church! If we see you conducting prayers, we will not spare you alive,'" he said.
The very next morning, the pastor packed up his children and moved to an undisclosed location.
"For the first time in the nine years of ministry in Simri, I took this extreme step of taking a break from Lord's work there," Masih told Morning Star. "My children, ages 12, 9, and 7, have missed their school for more than a month now, but I thought it is enough if I am alive for them. I need to care and provide for them."
'More and More Hindus Were Putting Faith in Christ'
"At least 300 members from different religious backgrounds were attending worship services in Simri," the pastor explained. "More and more Hindus were putting faith in Christ as they witnessed their family members or relatives become strong in faith, leaving behind idol worship."
As the church grew, Hindu extremist opposition also rose, he said.
"Even after leaving Simri, they continued sending threats to me through text messages and phone calls," he recounted. "They were having an impact on my young children. Some of the clippings of me praying for the sick and sharing about Christ started circulating on social media. Every other day, a video of me would appear on Facebook or WhatsApp groups accompanied by a post urging Hindus to resist such Christian preachers and inform the Hindu extremist groups."
Representatives from ADF India, a legal advocacy group, gave the pastor legal advice and arranged for Christian volunteers to accompany him to the Buxar District police station to submit a complaint.
Responding to his complaint, the police told Masih they would investigate and take action.
Believers in Village Scared to Assemble Together
"The believers are very scared to gather," the pastor told Morning Star. "For now, it is only an attack on me, threats and warnings, but they are afraid this will be followed by the worst. There have been past cases of brutal attacks and murders of pastors and believers in Bihar."
Pastor Masih requested prayers for the church in Simri and for his children.
As CBN News has reported, Christians in India have faced dramatically increased attacks and persecution since Prime Minister Modi took power in 2014. Verified cases of persecution skyrocketed from 147 in 2014 to nearly 328 in 2019. The increase comes largely due to the rising level of Hindutva ideology throughout Indian society that emboldens radical Hindus to attack Christians through mob violence.
United Christian Forum (UCF), a New Delhi-based human rights group that monitors atrocities against Christians in India, reports much of the increased intolerance and violence can be blamed on the fact that perpetrators of anti-Christian violence can get away with it. It also blames anti-Christian rhetoric often espoused by Hindu nationalist politicians with the BJP party. Stirred on by that, many radical Hindu nationalists feel they have the tacit approval of the BJP government when attacking Christians and their places of worship.
As of the 2020 census, Christians make up a mere 2.3 percent of India's population of 1.38 billion.
India is ranked 10th on Open Doors USA's 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.