NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian in Jharkhand state, India last month succumbed to illnesses incurred when villagers immersed him and his wife in frigid water because they refused to deny Christ, relatives said.
Upset that his family had left their indigenous religion, tribal residents of Kubuaa village, Palamu District immersed Bartu Urawn and his wife up to their necks in a cold pond one night this winter, when temperatures can dip below freezing, from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning, according to their son, Beneswar Urawn.
After suffering illness and two bouts of paralysis due to nerve damage suffered in the 17-hour ordeal, his son said, Urawn died on Jan. 20. He was 50.
“All throughout the night, they were in the cold water shivering, and I along with 15-20 villagers were witness to the brutality,” Beneswar Urawn told Global Christian News. “The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold. He reiterated every time, ‘I will not deny Christ … I will continue to believe till my last breath.’”
The torture came after three years of abuse of Urawn and his family at the hands of villagers who practice Sarna Dharam, or “Religion of the Holy Woods,” which requires blood sacrifices to a supreme god and ritual service to other gods.
Previous to the torture, villagers had forced Urawn to attend their worship, in which they sacrificed an animal, his son said. They forced a portion of the sacrifice down his throat and made him drink fermented liquor, he said.
Besides assaulting Urawn and his wife, the village mob attacked Beneswar Urawn, his wife and his younger brother, locking them inside their house for hours. They also polluted the family’s drinking water source, Beneswar Urawn said.
Urawn and his family had put their faith in Christ 10 years ago, and when the villagers realized he would not renounce Him after three years of being threatened, ostracized and assaulted, they told Urawn that demons would not let him live, his son said. They tied the hands of Urawn and his wife behind their backs and put them into the pond, he said.
After pulling them out the next morning, the villagers hit Urawn and his wife and again pressured them to renounce Christ, his son said. The couple fell seriously ill. In time Urawn’s wife recovered, while he became immobilized from paralysis.
After some measure of recovery, his body later became stiff again from a second attack of paralysis on Jan. 20, and he was unable to move his hands and legs before he died, his son said.
Initially villagers refused to allow Beneswar Urawn to bury his father, standing around the body with wooden sticks prepared to attack if he tried to recover it for burial, he added. The next day, he and four other Christians were able to carry the body 10 kilometers (six miles) to government land for a funeral service.
Upon their return, villagers demanded that the family prepare a meal for the village inhabitants in accordance with Sarna Dharam ritual, he said. Beneswar Urawn refused, saying they would hold a prayer meeting instead, and the villagers threatened to kill him as they had killed his father, he said.
Fleeing for their lives, the family found refuge in a village 35 kilometers (21 miles) away.
Relatives tried to inform police, but officers called it a “natural death,” Urawn’s son said. They suggested villagers attend “peace talks” on Feb. 2 and cease attacks on the Christian family. The family has since returned to their home, where they live in fear.
Nine other families also had decided to follow Christ when the Urawns did so 10 years ago, but after the same daily ostracism, discrimination, threats and persecution, seven families returned to their ancestral religion.
India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.