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India: Under Threat of Death, Christians Forced to ‘Re-Convert’ to Tribal Religion

Persecution of Christians in India continues to increase, as many Hindus and others believe 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. Instances such as the one described below are the result. As they are targeted more and more often, the Christians of India today are being called upon to have the courage and perseverance of the Holy Martyrs. They are in urgent need of protection from government and law enforcement authorities who, all too often, side with their persecutors. In India, as in so many other nations, the persecution of Christians continues to become more commonplace and aggressive by the day, while authorities do nothing to stop it, or sometimes even actively abet it.

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

“Christians Forced to ‘Re-Convert’ to Tribal Religion in Central India,” Morning Star News, April 1, 2021:

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – When followers of tribal deities in central India threatened to kill 10 Christian families if they refused to participate in a “re-conversion” ceremony back to their ancestral religion last month, all but 10 Christians fled the village.

“The village gathering threatened to beat us to death if we did not attend the ceremony,” said Raidhar Nag, 21, one of the Christians who fled Chhingur village, Bastar District in Chhattisgarh state. “They stopped us from fetching water from the village well, obtaining the free government ration or even working in our own fields.”

The mob tracked down the 10 Christians who remained, members of four families, and beat them on two occasions, forcing them to recant and worship their deities in the ceremony on March 10, sources said.

Nag said the village leaders had told the Christians that they would no longer be allowed to live in their houses and must leave the village.

“We fled from the village on the day of the ceremony, everyone in their own direction,” Nag told Morning Star News. “Four Christian families hid themselves in the village itself. The villagers frantically searched for all of us on the day of the ceremony and found the members of the four families. They took them along and forcibly sprinkled some water on them as the tradition and made them worship the tribal deities.”

Triggering Event

Pastor Dularam Kashyap of the Methodist Church told Morning Star News that a burial controversy earlier in the month triggered the mob aggression.

Tribal animist Lakhshu Nag had been ill for more than a year, and a few days before his death, he approached Pastor Kashyap for prayer. Nag died in a hospital two days later, and when Christians brought his body back to the village on March 2, Pastor Kashyap said, the villagers refused to allow him to be buried because he had gone to him for prayer.

The villagers assaulted the Christians as they denied Nag a burial place, and when Pastor Kashyap tried to intervene, he too was beaten, he said.

Pastor Kashyap, Senior Pastor Ram Singh of the Methodist Church and other Christians reported the matter to the Darbha police station.

“The police came to the village around 8 p.m. and spoke to the villagers to allow the burial, but the villagers refused to listen to the police,” Pastor Kashyap said.

Lalji Sinha of the Darbha police station told Morning Star News that villagers insisted that Lakhshu Nag’s last rites could not be performed in the village, and that his body must be buried at site for Christians in another village.

After police left, the villagers caught hold of the Christians and assaulted them again, Raidhar Nag said.

“Lakhshu Nag’s deceased body lay in the village the entire day, from March 2 till the morning of March 3, until the police escorted the Christians to carry the mortal remains to village Chaltipadar a miles from Chhingur,” Raidhar Nag said.

Officer Sinha said Lakhshu Nag’s family had no objections to his Christian burial rites at the alternate site.

After the burial, the Christians were summoned before the village elders on March 3 and told to attend the re-conversion “home-coming” (Ghar Wapsi) ceremony. The Christians were frightened, Pastor Kashyap said, “especially after being beaten twice by the village mob.”

“The four families resisted as long as they could but ultimately gave in to perform the ‘homecoming’ ritual that was conducted before the village council of four villages,” he said.

Police Response

Pastor Singh and Pastor Kashyap and others on March 12 submitted a complaint at the district collector’s office, the Darbha police station and with the Human Rights office demanding action against the villagers for assaulting and threatening the Christians, ostracizing them and forcing them to worship against their will.

They also demanded that a separate burial land be designated and allotted for the Christian community in Chhingur village.

Police then called the Chhingur Christians to the police station and spoke to them at length, Pastor Singh said.

Sinha, the station officer in-charge, said he had received the written complaint from Christian leaders but that the matter was resolved after officers spoke to both parties.

“We went to the village and made both the parties understand to live cordially, and they have agreed to it,” Sinha said. “Now there is an atmosphere of peace in the village. Talks about a designated place of burial are underway. The investigation is not over yet.”

Asked whether any action had been taken against villagers for the forced re-conversion ceremony, Sinha said it was a matter between the villagers, “and we asked them to sort it out among themselves.”…

Christian leaders in the Bastar area said they are concerned about rising cases of intolerance and ostracization. The remaining Christians in Chhingur village are facing opposition every day, Pastor Singh told Morning Star News.

“There is tremendous pressure on them to deny their Christian faith,” said Pastor Singh, a resident of a village four miles from Chhingur….

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