Attacks and harassment of a house church in southern India have decimated the 40-member congregation and left the elderly pastor injured and demoralized.
Pastor Eswara Rao Appalabattula was attacked by a group of Hindu extremists who were angry over the presence of a Christian church in their community, after he pleaded with them to stop building a wall meant to block people from attending worship services at his home in L.B. Patnam village, Andhra Pradesh according to Morning Star News.
“They wanted to build a wall right in front of the church and ban us from using the path,” Appalabattula told Morning Star News. “I pleaded with them to not do so. But the group of at least six neighbors, both male and female, punched me in my stomach several times and pushed me to the floor.”
They picked up a wooden pole and started beating his hands repeatedly with it, he said. Doctors later told him his hand had been fractured.
“I was lying there on the floor screaming for help,” he said. “My wife came running and begged them to stop beating me — it was traumatic.”
That same month, a Hindu priest led a group of extremists to the pastor’s home, where they threatened to kill his wife, Karuna Appalabattula, as she was doing chores outside.
“I did not go to fight with them but I was panicked,” Karuna Appalabattula told Morning Star News. “I did not know what to do. I asked them, ‘What is this you are doing? Why are you after us?’”
The Hindu priest picked up a large log of wood and came running toward her, she said.
“He kept screaming that he would kill me,” she said. “I was crying for help. But their priest abused me in extremely foul language. They called me names they would never use for a mother, wife, sister or any female member of their families. He called me a Christian prostitute and warned me that he would kill my husband.”
Trembling in fear, she and her husband locked themselves inside the house, she said.
When the pastor informed a police official of the abuse his family had endured, he was told to resolve the matter himself.
“They told me that, ‘Your God has to protect you — when your God is not protecting you from your attackers, what can we do staying here?’” the pastor said. “I told them that it was my God who had been protecting me, if not I would not have been alive in front of you.”
Pastor Appalabattula said the Hindu villagers had stopped worshippers from coming to services throughout January.
“They would threaten and abuse them in foul language and not let them even park their motorbikes in the area,” he said. “Even before they stop at the church, they are chased and sent away.”
Decimated and Demoralized
The attacks have left the couple feeling lonely and deserted, they said. Youths and Christians from neighboring villages who used to come to their home daily for worship and hours of fellowship are too fearful to come now, Karuna Appalabattula said, tears in her eyes.
“They were like our own children,” she said. “I would prepare meals and feed them. We sang and worshipped together…We both are very old and weak and are in need of prayers and support.”
Pastor Appalabattula said they are going through a very difficult time.
“I am ready to die for Christ. But the ministry we had started here has come to a sudden halt,” he said. “Not even four members are gathering for Sunday worship. The believers have been very scared, and nobody dares to come and see us.”
Legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India has contacted officers at Cheedikada police station and urged them to provide security for the house church. ADF-India’s allied lawyers had organized legal seminars and awareness campaigns in Andhra Pradesh last year.
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.