‘If Worshiping Jesus Is a Crime, I Will Commit This Crime Every Day’: Indian Christians Defy Authorities Forcing Them to ‘Reconvert’ to Hinduism

Authorities in Chhattisgarh, India are forcing Christians to go back to Hinduism by imposing fines upon them and subjecting them to public humiliation, but believers say they are ready to face the consequences.
A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai February 9, 2015. Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Authorities in Chhattisgarh, India are forcing Christians to go back to Hinduism by imposing fines upon them and subjecting them to public humiliation.

In the village of Junwani, for example, attending services last Easter was declared as illegal, and those who went to the services were fined $312, an amount equivalent to four or five months of wages, according to the International Christian Concern.

The situation could get worse, according to a local pastor.

"These Christians of Junwani are going [to] face an even more dangerous situation for following Jesus," he told ICC. "The police hardly take notice of their cry."

Some believers have openly defied the authorities and challenged the fines imposed upon them. One of them is Kanesh Singh, a 55-year-old man who addressed the village elders about the fines.

"What crime have I committed that I should pay the fine?" Singh said. "I have not stolen anything. I have not defiled any woman. I have not quarreled. I have not killed anybody."

"If you think going to church and worshiping Jesus is the crime, I will commit this crime every day," he told the village elders.

Another Christian villager, 40-year-old Somari Komra, challenged the authorities who questioned him and made him stand at the center of the village. Komra said he was suffering from "physical illness and mental disorder" yet none from the community or those in authority came to his aid.

However, Jesus healed him when he started going to church. He said he would not stop attending worship services and would pay the fines and face other consequences. If he should be forced to stop going to church, he charged the authorities to "take responsibility" for his health.

Because of Komra's action, the authorities pressured 15 families to abandon Christianity and return to Hinduism.

While some believers are bold in openly declaring their faith in Christ, there are others who feel more vulnerable and therefore choose to practice their faith in secret. One of these is Shivaram Tekam, who was forced to give "a pair of chickens, a bottle of wine and 551 rupees."

"I had to do this because I attended the church on Easter Sunday," Tekam said.

The village elders gave these as a sacrifice to their village god, which was "a sign of accepting me back to the old faith and community," Tekam explained.

He later told a local pastor that he would look for ways to keep attending worship services in secret.

"They can stop me from going to church but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. I will find ways and secretly come to church," he said.  

The increasing attacks against Christians in India in recent years is reaching alarming levels, according to Release International, an organization that serves persecuted Christians worldwide.

"In states across India, militants have threatened and killed church workers," Paul Robinson, chief executive of the organization, said, according to Premier. "Extremists have tried to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism. And they have bombed, torched, vandalised and demolished churches."

A report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India stated there were more attacks in 2016 than in 2014 and 2015 combined, indicating an escalating trend of attacks against Christians.

A report from the All India Christian Council revealed 108 attacks against Christians from January to June of 2016. Fresh attacks occur against Christians every 40 hours, AICC said. Furthermore, anti-Christian violence in the country increased 20 percent from last year. 

Tags : India Christians, Persecution, Christian persecution, Christian Persecution in India, Chhattisgarh Christians, Junwani Christians, India attacks on Christians, International Christian Concern, Release International, Paul Robinson, India Hindu extremists, Christians in India