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India: Hindu Extremists Jail Pastors, Close Churches

Many Hindus believe that conversion to Christianity is an attack on their culture and way of life, and an imminent threat to both, despite the fact that Christianity has been a presence in India since the days of St. Thomas the Apostle. 

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in India, see here.

“Hindu Extremists Jail Pastors, Close Churches in India,” Morning Star News, June 6, 2023:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Having spent a month in jail on baseless charges before his release on bail, Pastor R. Kirubendran was baffled at hostilities from police, media and villagers after serving a community in northern India without problem for several years.

An explanation likely lies in the pattern of false accusations by Hindu extremists, followed by church closures, in Ghazipur District, Uttar Pradesh state where he and his wife served.

Accused of forcible conversion and insulting religion, Pastor Kirubendran was released on May 24 after four failed attempts to secure bail. His wife, Manju Tiruvendram, and 18-month-old daughter spent 13 days in jail before being released on bail on May 6.

Pastor Kirubendran said he was shocked and puzzled at the charges after serving in the town of Kasimabad for six years without incident.

“Everything was very smooth and cordial, until suddenly that Sunday [April 23] the crowd was hurling accusations on us,” he told Morning Star News. “The villagers had never opposed us since the time we started worshipping here till now.”

Kirubendran and Tiruvendram have provided free education for the village since 2017, with 60 children attending. Holding classes Monday to Saturday for two hours, they taught according to the area school’s syllabus.

“I wanted to educate them,” Pastor Kirubendran said. “Families who have money send their children to coaching classes by paying hefty fees. What about the poor children? My wife and I had a lot of burden for the education of the poor children, so we wanted to teach them.”

They also provided guidance and other help to villagers, his wife said.

“We have no money, so we could not help them financially, but we advised them whenever they asked for it, and we also stood by them; if they had to take someone to the hospital in emergency, we went with them,” Tiruvendram said.

About 90 people attended the church, but resuming services now is not possible, the pastor said.

“The person from whom we had rented the house has blocked the entrance of the church with a bamboo mesh,” Pastor Kirubendran said. “Those who have complained against us, they are high-caste people. They are the rich and affluent. My life can get in danger, I must stay safe and keep a low profile. We will have to prove that we are not guilty but are innocent.”…

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