Hindu extremists in India have forced Christian families to stop attending church, threatening them with physical harm. Yet, despite such persecution, the Christians have vowed to continue worshiping Christ -- in secret.
Shankar Damor, a 37-year-old from Kardubadi village near Jhabua, told persecution watchdog International Christian Concern his family stopped attending church because Hindu radicals threatened to harm his family should they continue to worship Jesus.
"In a meeting last May in the village of Kardubadi, the Christians were told that we should not attend any church and should not even pray in our homes," Shankar explained. "When we complained to the village diktat, the entire village stopped associating with us. No one attended our weddings and we were totally cut off from the people of the village."
"In that same month, when my family was praying in our house, someone from the village called the police and I was taken to the police station on false charges of forced conversions," Shankar said. "The police beat me brutally and harassed me while in custody."
Yet, Shankar said his family will continue to worship Jesus -- even though their lives are constantly at risk due to ongoing persecution: "[We] might stop attending the church, but we will not leave Jesus," he said.
Babu Singh Damor, another Christian from Kardubadi village, told ICC that Hindu radicals may prevent Christians from attending church, their faith will remain unshakable.
"We Christians are closely monitored as to where we are going and whom are we meeting," Babu explained. "It's quite a pathetic life we are living. However, we are not going to leave Jesus, no one is going snatch Jesus from our hearts."
While Christians comprise some 64 million of India's 1.3 billion residents, the country ranks as the 11th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2018 World Watch List. The group said that in 2016, there was a weekly average of 10 instances in which a church was burned down or a cleric was assaulted in India.
"Religious nationalism is on the rise," said Daniel Mark, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan independent federal group created by Congress in 1998. "Some state and local governments in India have tried to address attacks on [religious] minorities, but others turn a blind eye. That creates a climate of impunity that allows radicals to function more freely."
In August, members of the US Congress sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to oppose the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by members of his own party.
"Our hope is to apply significant pressure on Prime Minister Modi regarding the persecution of Christians and religious minorities in India. We hope that this letter, alongside other efforts, will pressure the Indian government to move beyond the recognition of the fact that persecution of religious minorities in India exists, and take concrete steps to end the persecution of religious minorities," ICC Advocacy Director Matias Perttula told The Christian Post.
"Prime Minister Modi must publicly condemn the attacks on religious minorities and implement proper legal procedures to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable. The bottom line is that India must take tangible steps to deal with the issue at hand."