Pastors draw close to God as tribal churches are attacked

When Hindu extremists in India told Pastor Karma Oraon they would not stop beating him until he worshipped the monkey god, he felt Christ close to him, he said.

“In those moments when they were kicking and beating me, I felt that even if I die now the Lord will make the ministry I leave behind fruitful,” Oraon told Morning Star News. “We are just a few gathering in the name of Jesus. He is our strength.”

His small flock of eight people was meditating on Scripture on Christmas Eve in Harmu village of Ranchi District, Jharkhand state, when twice as many Hindu nationalists brandishing wooden sticks intruded, shouting, “Praise Bajrang Bali.” Bajrang Bali is another name for the popular monkey god Hanuman.

Oraon said attackers told the congregation, “All the Christians in this area beware. There is no place for Christianity here.” They then dragged him outside, beat him and expelled him from the village, he said.

Chotu Munda, 21, said he was beaten when he tried to rescue the 34-year-old pastor and female church members who had also tried to separate the assailants from Oraon. The pastor noted, “They scolded the sisters in very vulgar language for coming to help rescue me.”

That night at 10 p.m., Oraon went to a police station, but officers refused to register a case against the assailants or even receive his complaint, he said.

“I never had an experience of opposition when I preached gospel or visited families to pray for the sick. But I seek inspiration from my Lord; people have crossed every limit to humiliate Him and crucify Him, but He patiently bore their torture for my sake, for my sins,” Oraon said. “I strongly feel the presence of my Lord Jesus in all this. Had He not granted the strength to endure, I could have never overcome from what happened.”

In a separate incident in Jharkhand state, another group of Hindu extremists beat tribal Christians while they worshipped — also reviling them for leaving their indigenous religion for Christianity.

About 60 Hindu nationalists stormed into a house church on Christmas Day in Behratoli village, Ranchi District, where 16 Christians had gathered to celebrate Christmas.

The attackers told Pastor Rakesh Tirkey they didn’t want to see any Christians in the area, he said, adding that they snatched away his Bible, tore the pages to pieces, spit on it and kicked it. But when they tried to light a match to set the torn Bible on fire, they were unable to ignite it, he said.

When Tirkey went to a police station to file a report, officers refused to accept his complaint, the pastor said.
Tirkey became a Christian eight years ago. Then an alcoholic with declining health that no doctor was able to relieve, he was healed after putting his faith in Christ, he said.

“It was then I decided that the Lord has given me good health, so I will dedicate it to my Lord’s work, and as long as I live, I will serve Him,” he said. “Now I am leading a life full of joy.”

Pastors in the region told Morning Star News that religious freedom in Jharkhand is in danger. The rise of Hindu nationalism has led to attacks throughout the country. India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt. (MS)

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