Six Christian families were worshipping in a wood-and-hay structure in eastern India last month when an influential man of wealth wielding an axe led others in and, in coarse language, asked why they had abandoned their tribal religion.
Elder Burjo Tadinji of the church in Odisha state’s Chichima village, answered, “We have known the true living God; we will not leave him. We used to indulge in fights and speak lies, but we do not do all that now. We like this faith, and that is why we follow it.”
Outraged, the leader of the mob of 20-25 men from three different villages began swinging the axe on the church structure, according to pastor Bibudhan Pradhan, who normally leads the small congregation of 15 but was absent that day (Dec. 13).
“They manhandled the Christians, damaged [an adjacent] Christian home, and broke the thatched structure with the axe,” Pastor Pradhan, 48, told Morning Star News. “They threatened to chase them out of their homes and the village if they reported the matter to the police.”
The mob joined in, and soon the church structure was reduced to pieces, with Tadinji’s adjoining home also damaged. They tore the clothes of one Christian and with a stone broke the mobile phone of another Christian recording the attack, Pastor Pradhan said.
The mob leader, whose name is withheld to protect area Christians, then warned them not to report the attack to police, church elder Tadinji said.
“If the police come, we will not let you live in the village and we will chase you away,” he said, according to Tadinji.
The Christians present were all converts from animistic tribal religion. The animist assailants were trained and incited by Hindu nationalists, sources said.
Pastor Pradhan established the church in Chichima, a remote mountain village in Rayagada District, five years ago. The land on which the structure was built belongs to Tadinji.
“Though I insisted that we file a complaint, the villagers fear the repercussions and refuse to risk losing their birth-village,” Pastor Pradhan said.
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SOURCE: Morning Star News