A large mob of tribal animists in India brutally beat Christians who refused to comply with their demands to sacrifice their animals to tribal deities and renounce their faith.
A mob of around 120 villagers led by tribal leaders in Metapal village in Dantewada District showed up at Santuram Markam’s home with their demands, Morning Star News reports. Animists worship gods based on ancestors, spirits, and nature.
“The village council summoned us to a meeting demanding we bring a goat, pig, hen, coconut, incense sticks and cash of 5,000 rupees (US $66) as sacrificial offerings to the tribal deities,” Markam told Morning Star News.
When they refused to give in to their demands, the mob again barged into Markam’s home the next night (March 31) and started beating his aged parents, he said.
“I escaped from there and have run into the woods,” he said. “I will go back only after knowing about the situation there at home. I am very scared to back home now. They beat us yesterday, and they came again today. My Christian neighbor Raju Podiyami and his family also came under attack today.”
Superintendent of Police of Dantewada District Abhishek Pallava reportedly told the outlet that because police were exhausted from working extra hours due to the coronavirus, they were unable to address the situation in a timely manner, Christian Post Reports.
“I will try to make peace between the groups over the phone,” Pallava told Morning Star News at that time. “Nobody can reach there now. All the police force has been working day and nights because of coronavirus. It is a Naxalite (Maoist rebel) area, we cannot take risks by sending forces without any preparation.”
That same month, animists kidnapped Markam’s neighbor, Podiyami, from his home and locked him in a hut as they drank liquor throughout the night, area pastor Sushil Sangam told Morning Star News.
After cutting through the thatched roof and escaping, Podiyami took his family of eight, injured from the previous day’s attacks, and sought refuge at Pastor Sangam’s church site in Tokapal village, Bastar District, the pastor said.
Speaking to Morning Star News, Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer allied with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India, said that currently, farmers in tribal villages are preparing the soil, which involves sacrificial offerings to tribal deities, with the village council collecting funds and animals to be offered.
“But Christians refuse to partake in this ritual,” Jhali said. “This has been the one main reason for the spike in violent attacks against Christians amid lockdown.”
Last week, it was reported that animists in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh, told five Christian families they would lose their harvest lands unless they returned to their tribal religion. When the Christians refused, they were beaten.
That same day, residents of Naktoka village in Bastar District who follow a mix of tribal religion and Hinduism threatened to kill Christians if they tried to give a Christian burial for one of their dead in the community graveyard.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The outlet notes that converts to Christianity from Hindu backgrounds or tribal religions are often extremely persecuted by their family members and communities.