Indian extremists have increased attacks against Christians, amid fears that Covid-19 could make the rising levels of persecution even worse in the country.
Reports from Release International partners in India have revealed several chilling cases, including the brutal death of sixteen-year-old Samaru Madkami.
Samaru was a promising young pastor who led a tiny church in his village in Odisha, but because his family and two other families had turned to Christ a few years ago, Hindu militants seized the opportunity to destroy the small fellowship.
Initially, they drove out the church’s original pastor, but when young Samaru took over church leadership, they dragged Samaru from his house in Kendukuda village, took him up into the mountains, then stoned him to death.
Release partners reported the murder to police and four men were arrested. In a statement, Release said, ‘Our partners are now supporting all three Christian families from Kendukuda, moving them elsewhere for safety.
‘Our partners say such attacks are on the increase during the pandemic: persecution is flourishing in villages under lockdown or subject to curfews.’
A spokesman from Voice of the Martyrs Korea said, ‘Unfortunately, Samaru is one of a growing number of Christians being persecuted and even martyred in India, as radical Hindu nationalism spreads across the country.’
This comes as a tribal group persuaded Maoist militants to shoot and kill Pastor Munshi Devu Tado on 10 July. The pastor had led 15 families to Christ in Bhatpar village in Maharashtra state.
Meanwhile, in Chhattisgarh state, Bajjo Bai Mandavi, a widow who had suffered persecution for refusing to denounce Jesus, was found dead on 29 May just outside Kumud village where she lived.
Also in Chhattisgarh, three Christian families have just returned home to Devkupli Para after fleeing the village in May. They were attacked and received death threats for refusing to worship tribal gods. The Christians have had to come back to farm their land, but are said to be ‘traumatised and shunned’.
Release has called for Christians to pray God will comfort Samaru’s family as they mourn his loss, and for God to protect the families in Devkupli Para.
In a prayer update, Release also said, ‘Pray for justice for Samaru, Bajjo, Pastor Munshi and their families, so that persecutors will not be allowed to act with impunity.
‘Pray that state and national governments will take firm steps to protect vulnerable Christian communities and uphold religious rights for all citizens.’