Indian Court Orders Authorities To Allow Safe Return Of Christians Forced To Flee Their Homes

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Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists.
Christians meet near their rebuilt church in Kandhamal. In 2008, almost every church in the area was destroyed by Hindu nationalists.

The high court of the eastern state of Chhattisgarh has ordered the local administration to ensure the safe return of more than a dozen Christian men who had to flee their villages after their houses were vandalized for refusing to convert to Hinduism.

The Bilaspur High Court passed the order earlier this month in a Public Interest Litigation filed by 12 Christians to seek security for the displaced Christians who came under attack in September, according to the U.S-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

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“We ran for our lives,” Vijay Sori, a survivor, said. “The death threat they hurled against us were very frightening. There was no other way than to flee from the village. Our lives are in danger as the villagers have vowed to kill us if we return. Our lives are being badly affected with the dangerous atmosphere created by the villagers.”

The Christians, especially men, from three villages — Kakadabeda, Telliabeda and Singanpur — were displaced for nearly one and a half months.

In three separate attacks in September, tribal (aboriginal) villagers had vandalized 16 houses belonging to Christians from the same tribe and attacked at least one tribal Christian woman, according to StoriesAsia, which said most of the Christian women in those villages had been living alone as male family members had fled into jungles for safety.

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“A few men attacked me and tore my clothes,” a Christian woman was quoted as saying.

“I kept pleading with them but they kept beating me. My only fault was that I follow Christianity,” said another woman.

Police arrested six tribal villagers on Oct. 14. They also arrested two Christian men as the villagers filed a counter-complaint. The Christian men were released on bail two days later.

Tensions in the villages began after a local tribal priest, identified as Lakum Poyam, claimed that a goddess of the tribe had claimed ownership over those villages.

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“Our deity has ordered that all the tribal people in the neighboring villages be united together. I participated in all the meetings where the conversion of Christians to Hinduism was planned. I have been telling the villagers about our goddess’ order for a while,” Poyam told StoriesAsia.

“I have a worship room in my house with a wooden structure in it. During the annual festival in the village, the goddess possesses the most suitable young man, who then carries that piece of wood. The wood then leads the man to a village, and the goddess then becomes the owner of that village,” he explained.

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“This shows that the ancestors of all these villages were the same. So how can anyone in those villages even think of practicing other religions?”

Believers in India—number 10 on the 2020 World Watch List—are often shunned, unjustly arrested, attacked—even killed—because they choose to follow Jesus and not Hinduism or the local religion. Our Indian family needs the prayers of the global church to stand strong in the midst of persecution—and to remain a light for Christ in the world’s second-most populated country.

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