NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Hindu extremists have vandalized his shop, threatened to kill him, attacked his wife and daughter, forced him to bow to Hindu idols and broken his hand, but a pastor in northern India is holding fast to Christ.
“The best thing that has happened to me is Jesus,” the 55-year-old pastor, who goes by the single name of Rampal, told Morning Star News. “I am joyful that I am chased and beaten up for His name’s sake. And we will continue to carry the banner of Christ, and one day the attackers will also see Christ.”
Pastor Rampal put his trust in Christ only 18 months ago. In the latest attack, Hindu extremists on Feb. 19 stormed his home in Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, where about 80 members of a house church led by five pastors from Kanpur were worshipping. One of the pastors, 80-year-old Santosh Kumar, sustained bone fractures on both hands, abrasions all over his body and cuts on his head; he later fell unconscious from the beating.
“Manu Tiwari, the village head, asked me who is pastor Santosh Kumar, then he headed straight to him and started beating him with a stick all over his body,” Pastor Rampal said.
Some house church members were able to flee while the extremists pushed, kicked, slapped and beat others with sticks. Pastor Rampal’s left hand was broken, his wife sustained a back injury, and his daughter received severe cuts on her head, hands and thigh, he said.
Throughout the thrashing, the Hindu extremists threatened to kill those gathered if they continued to worship Jesus, said the pastor. The assailants also destroyed Pastor Kumar’s vehicle. Police took Pastor Kumar and others to a local hospital for treatment, and later the pastor was transferred to a hospital in Kanpur for further treatment.
Police refused to register a complaint by church members after about 200 Hindu extremists gathered at the area police station to protest against the Christians.
“The police refused to take the complaint of the Christians and advised them to settle the matter with the other party and not to conduct worship meetings for their safety,” area Christian leader Simon Shivpuri told Morning Star News.
Last October, Hindu extremists attacked Pastor Rampal as he made his way home after attending a Christian meeting in Kanpur, where he had obtained some gospel literature for publication. The extremists took him to a Hindu temple, told him to leave Jesus and forced him to bow before idols.
“They surrounded me and pressured me, and I was forced to do it,” said Pastor Rampal, between tears.
In December, the pastor was leading about 25 Christians in prayer when some 30 extremists forced their way into the venue and began verbally abusing them, threatening to expel them if they did not put an end to their meetings.
“The extremists threatened to kill Pastor Rampal if he continued to conduct prayer meetings, vandalized his small bicycle repair shop where he also sells some tea and samosas for their livelihood,” Pastor Shivpuri said.
In January, Pastor Rampal was getting off a bus with pastor Bal Raja when village head Manu Tiwari and two other extremists stopped them and asked them what they were carrying.
“When they saw that it was Bibles, they became very angry and started slapping and abusing us, and we fled from the scene as fast as we could,” Pastor Rampal said.
Pastor Shivpur said it is now difficult to lead worship in the area.
“Many are afraid to go to the house church meetings, but we are pressing on and praying,” he said.
Summoned to Confrontation
The day after Pastor Rampal’s church and family were attacked in northern India, in the western state of Maharashtra three Christian families were summoned to a public meeting with Hindu extremists in Dingara, outside Buldhana.
“At 9:30 in the morning, three Christian families were summoned to the public meeting, where the Hindu extremists told them not to pray and observe Christianity any more in the village,” Sardar Solanki, main pastor of the families’ church, told Morning Star News.
About 250 villagers led by village head Suresh Muzaldar stood in opposition to the Christians. When they replied that they would not turn away from their newfound faith and would continue to pray to Jesus, the mob began beating them.
The throng kicked, punched and slapped the Christians, leaving 18-year-old Gopal Solanki unconscious. After some 10 minutes, passers-by stopped the mob with the argument that the attack would land them in big trouble. The injured Christians were given first aid for their cuts, wounds and abrasions, and Solanki regained consciousness after 15 minutes without requiring serious medical attention.
At the time of this writing the Christians were not allowed to walk on the main road or take part in any village social functions.
Local police refused to register the complaint submitted by the Christians and told them to resolve the conflict with the hostile Hindus without their involvement.
“The police and the villagers did not allow me or any other Christian leaders to enter into the village, and, for now, all kinds of Christian meetings have been closed down,” the pastor told Morning Star News.