A mob of animists in central India attacked members of five Christian families after they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.
Morning Star News (MSN) reports the attack came during a meeting with Salhephal village leaders in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh state on May 5.
The Christians had forbidden a tribal animist leader, Dulla Poyami, to perform tribal worship on their land.
Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things – animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words – as animated and alive.
When the families came to the meeting with the village elders, they found their leaders estimating the value of their lands, Pastor Sirisguda Ramdhar told MSN.
"The village leaders told the Christians, 'You are not partaking in our tribal rituals, and so we cannot allow you to profit from your agricultural lands,'" according to the pastor.
The Christians said the lands in question were all deeded in their names.
"We follow our faith but have never been a burden on this village or to our kinsmen – you cannot snatch away our lands," they told the tribal elders, according to the pastor.
The elders then stood up and attacked two of the Christians, Madda Poyami and Badda Poyami. As they began beating on the two men, a mob of about 60 people encircled the families, telling them they must give up their Christian faith.
Poyami was also stoned, according to Morning Star News. He was later admitted to a local hospital. Six others were also injured.
Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer allied with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India (ADF India), visited the group of Christians and helped them draft a complaint to be filed at the Kodenar police station.
"The medical proofs are important to support the complaint and enable the police officers to register cases against the assailants," Jhali told MSN.
Meanwhile, residents of the Naktoka village who follow a mix of tribal religion and Hinduism threatened to kill Christians if they tried to bury any of their dead in the local graveyard.
"A mob of more than 100 villagers opposed the burial of Bhima Kashyap in the graveyard allotted for villagers, accusing him of adopting foreign faith," Pastor Guptaram Kawasi told MSN. "The Christian family was put under immense pressure to perform his last rites as per the Hindu and tribal traditions followed in the village."
Villagers informed the family they must first undergo a reconversion ritual in order to perform the last rites ceremony.
"They threatened that they would kill everybody present at Kashyap's home if they proceeded against the village's customs," Kawasi said.
In response to the threat, the family notified the ADF India's Chhattisgarh Legal Aid Center about the incident. The center contacted the officer in charge of the Mardum police station and he and several other officers arrived to provide security for the family to hold the funeral for their loved one at another site the next day.
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