Hindu extremists in India brutally tortured a pastor, belting his head and threatening to sacrifice him to their god because he distributed Bible tracts.
Morning Star News reports that recently Shelton Vishwanathan, a house church pastor, was handing out Gospel tracts in Tiryani village, in Bihar state’s Sheohar District when six Hindu radicals approached him and ordered him to stop.
Though the pastor complied, one Hindu seized the keys from his scooter, took away his phone and signaled the others to attack him.
“They punched my back and told me that they would offer me as a sacrifice to their deity as a punishment for distributing gospel tracts,” he recalled. “They struck severe blows on my head, so that I soon fainted.”
When he regained consciousness, he found himself locked in a dark room.
“I shouted for help, cried loud hoping someone would hear my cries and come to help me, but nobody could hear me,” Pastor Vishwanathan said. “I was lying down on the floor without food or water for the next few days. They did not give me anything to eat or drink.”
One week later, an elderly woman who lives nearby heard his cries and knocked on the door, he said.
“She told me that the door was bolted from outside and that she would open it for me on the condition that I would not tell anyone that she opened it,” he said. “She was very scared that if the assailants found out that she opened the door, she would also land in trouble.”
The woman took him out of the room and later gave him food and water, saving his life.
“Had she not helped, I would not be alive today,” he said. “I fully believe that it was God who sent her to help me.”
After returning to his home in Sheohar, the pastor learned his family had searched for him throughout the district and eventually fled to his wife’s hometown in Nepal.
With help from other Christians, eventually, he was able to make contact and pay for his family to return home nearly a month after the attack.
“I am overjoyed to see the Lord’s hand in every situation over the past two months,” said Vishwanathan. “My family who thought I must have been lost and died have returned to see me alive. We give thanks and praises to the Lord.”
This is not the first time the pastor has been attacked for his faith. In June 2019, eight Hindu extremists in Sheohar District pushed him off his scooter, breaking his hand and foot as they beat him.
Though the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India urged the pastor to file charges against the attackers, he refused.
“I had come under attack several times for leading a home church and sharing the gospel in villages but survived only because of God’s grace. Even in the past, the police warned me that there is a threat to my life. As the Navratri [Hindu festival] celebrations were in full swing, if I was found again the assailants might have really offered me as a sacrifice to the deity,” he explained.
Violence against Christians in Bihar state, in India’s northeast bordering Nepal and Bangladesh, has increased over the last few years. Christianity is practiced by less than 0.5% of the population, while Hindus make up 82.7% of the population.
A recent report from United Christian Forum in India, a Christian organization that advocates on behalf of Christians in India, found that attacks on Christians and their places of worship in the state escalated in both number and severity in the early months of 2020.
In August, it was reported that three Christians in Bihar state were brutally beaten by Hindu extremists angered by the believers’ acceptance of what they called a “foreign faith" and “foreign God.”
Earlier, a pastor in the state was severely beaten alongside members of his congregation after he was accused of carrying out forceful conversions.
Thomas Schirrmacher, the newly-appointed head of the World Evangelical Alliance, which represents over 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide, told The Christian Post that India’s religious minorities have faced increasing persecution since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party rose to power in 2014.
“Elections are won by the Prime Minister with this topic: ‘India is for the Hindus,’ and suddenly Muslims and Christians find themselves in a country that clearly wants to get rid of them,” he said. “They promote the idea that an Indian by nature is a Hindu. So if he is not a Hindu, he has been stolen and must be reconverted.”
“This idea was not on the market 10 years ago, and has led to an increase in discrimination and killings of Indian Christians and other minorities,” he said.