Christians who worshipped privately in their homes in a village in eastern India were dragged to local leaders last month and forced to bow to a goddess idol, sources said.
The mob action on June 14 followed an announcement two days earlier by the heads of Mahuatoli village, Gumla District in Jharkhand state, that 12 Christian families would be banished if they did not return to the tribal Sarna religion, they said.
Threatened with death, most of the Christian families have fled the village.
“Threats have always been there in this area in Gumla District, but it had never escalated to this point that the Sarna extremists vowed to take lives,” said area pastor Boyen Munda. “They are not in a right state of mind now. The Hindu extremist forces have joined hands with them and have been inciting them against the believers.”
The mob of 20 villagers broke into the home of Jogiya Munda and pushed him and his widowed mother out of their house, the pastor said. Munda and his mother, who have been Christians for 17 years, were dragged to the village leaders and forced to sit and bow to the goddess idol, Pastor Munda said.
“They poured buckets of water on them [as a purification rite] and made them do a ritual which is believed to be a procedure to renounce Christ,” Pastor Munda said. “They fled to a safer place very far away. The village heads plotted to kill the mother and son if they find them praying any day after the ‘reconversion ritual.’”
The Sarna ritual is akin to a last chance for those who have left to return to their former tribal religion, he said. Two families who were also forced to undergo the ritual ostensibly renounced Christ and remain in the village, he said.
“But they shared with us that they have not done it on their will but because of the pressure they had been put through,” Pastor Munda said. “It has been a month since the Christians are scattered in neighboring villages seeking refuge. It is the monsoon season, so if they can’t return back to cultivate their land, they will have to go hungry for next one year.”
The Sarna villagers had refused to supply water for the Christian families’ farm fields, disconnected their electricity and threatened to stop all government benefits, he said.
“But they [10 Christian families] stood against the plots devised by the most powerful religious extremists,” Pastor Munda told Morning Star News.
He said the Christians never held group worship in Mahuatoli village, instead traveling to Dolaichi for more secure worship.
“They never had an open service or loudspeakers – it has always been a private family prayer at each individual’s house,” he said. “Even that few minutes of private prayer is being seen as crime.”
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SOURCE: Christian Headlines, Morning Star News