About 13 Christian families in India’s Odisha state have been displaced from their home village since January after they refused to recant their Christian faith. The displacement happened after radical Hindu nationalists used a disagreement over a local Hindu festival to foment tensions between villagers.
The 13 Christian families used to live in Bandhugaon village, located in the Koraput District. On January 30, a mob of radicals attacked the families as they gathered for worship in a makeshift church in the village. The radicals beat the Christians and scolded them with filthy language. According to a survivor of the attack, the radicals told them they were being punished because they had converted to Christianity.
After the attack, which left the makeshift church demolished, the Christian families were told they must recant their faith or leave the village. The Christians were also told that they homes would be destroyed and they would be kicked out of the village if they did not recant Christianity.
Despite the threats, the Christians refused to recant their faith. Enraged by the resistance, the radicals and other villagers followed through on their threats and destroyed the homes of the 13 Christian families and drove them out of Bandhugaon.
After being displaced, the Christians attempted to file a First Information Report with local police. Before they could do this, however, the village Sarpanch intervened and told the Christians he would work to resolve the issue.
In a meeting arranged by the Sarpanch on January 31, the Christians were told they would not be able to return to the village unless they recanted Christianity. The Christians continue to refuse this ultimatum. Since then, the 13 Christian families have remained displaced, living in temporary shelters built on another Christian’s land in a nearby village.
According to the displaced Christians, many of them converted to Christianity five years ago and experienced little to no resistance for local villagers. However, tensions between the Christians and other villagers increased after they decided not to contribute money to an annual Hindu festival. According to the displaced Christians, these tensions were exploited by radicals and led to their banishment from Bandhugaon