A pastor in India has opened up about the deteriorating state of religious freedom in the country, revealing things are becoming “far more difficult” for Christians who almost daily encounter persecution for their faith.
“Things have become far more difficult for pastors like me,” Pastor Ramesh Kumar, a church planter who leads house churches in 12 villages outside of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, recounts. “Almost daily, I encounter a situation where I am asked to stop preaching the Gospel and recant my faith in Jesus,” according to Christian Post.
On February 2, leaders of the Hindu nationalist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held a press conference claiming they identified 30 locations in India’s Uttar Pradesh state where religious conversions were taking place. The VHP leaders went on to say they would put a stop to these conversions in a door to door Ghar Wapsi campaign.
Since this announcement, attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Uttar Pradesh have skyrocketed. Almost every weekend since the press conference, International Christian Concern (ICC) has received reports of Christians in Uttar Pradesh facing intimidation, harassment, arrest, or assault.
Pastor Kumar described several incidents of persecution he has experienced over the last several weeks. “Some days, it is only a mild warning,” he said, but “other times, it turns into a frightening physical assault.”
On March 16, the pastor was about to leave his home when four people showed up at his door. What started as a civil conversation quickly turned volatile after the pastor revealed he “preaches Jesus to people who want to hear.”
“When the four men asked if I receive money for converting people, I immediately sensed the trouble was going beyond my control,” he recalled. “I immediately called my landlord, who is a Hindu, and he came to my rescue. He dispersed the four men by explaining that I am not doing any harm to anyone.”
Pastor Kumar is a church planter who leads house churches in twelve villages outside of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. In a recent interview with ICC, Pastor Kumar recalled several incidents of persecution he has experienced since the February 2 press conference.
The pastor uses a bicycle to shuttle between villages to conduct prayers, lead Bible studies and various Sunday worship services, and share the Gospel message with people he meets along the road. He described a recent incident where one of his house churches was almost shut down.
“It was around noon after I had completed Sunday worship in Puran Patti village,” he recalled. “Suddenly, a four-wheel vehicle full of young men stopped in front of the church. These young men entered the church shouting anti-Christian slogans and started to hurl abuses at the Christians who had gathered.”
“After an hour of intense abuse, the Hindu radicals locked and sealed the door of the church. They told my congregation and me that we were no longer allowed to assemble in the church.
“It was a very painful thing for my congregation and me. However, we took the matter to the village president. He came to the church and opened the locked doors. According to the village president, the people who attacked the church were outsiders, and the village president knew we were not harming anyone by holding worship in the church.”
Despite the persecution he continues to face, the pastor stressed that “God has been very faithful.”
“I am not going to stop witnessing and will continue to serve Jesus even though things are not favorable at the moment,” he said.
“I do get worried every day when I go out. But I do know that God will help me.”