Christian Converts in India Face Persecution

A newly converted Christian family in rural India faces a tense time after recent axe attacks from local villagers who told them to leave the Christian faith or else leave the village.

The US-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that villagers in Madhya Pradesh state's Anuppur district are ostracising four members of a poor family who were earlier attacked with axes for not moving out of the village after their conversion to Christ.

Pooran Lal, his wife and their two sons are the only Christians in Miriya village, situated in Pushparajgarh Block of the north-eastern district of Anuppur (formerly known as Shahdol).

A pastor (name withheld) from a nearby village told ICC that although there is a government hand-pump (to draw water from the ground) and a well hardly a few stones throw away from their house, the ostracised Christians have to fetch water from the Narmada River, about two kilometres away.

According to ICC, villagers had previously asked Lal, a farmer, to abandon the Christian faith or else leave the village. The villagers had also warned him that he would be poisoned if he did not move out of the village.

Opposition to the Christian family turned violent when they refused to leave and on 9 June they were attacked by eight villagers armed with axes. They hit all the four members on their heads causing deep wounds.

Some villagers promptly took them to a hospital, where they received stitches.

The victims also went to the Amarkantak police station and lodged their complaint. But until now no action has been taken by the police against the attackers who continue to roam free and threaten the family. They are also continuing to pressure them to withdraw the complaint, said the pastor.

"The police do not investigate and ask for bribe, which the poor family cannot pay. But the attackers are wealthy and powerful who can grease the hands of the policemen," he said.

On the contrary, he added, the attackers lodged a counter-complaint against the victims, saying they had beaten them up. The police acted on their complaint and the case is being heard by a court.

"The family has to attend the hearing in the court twice a month for which they have to walk quite a distance. And each time they go for the hearing, they are stopped on the way and threatened," he said.

Although there is no violence any longer, there is a deep sense of insecurity among the family members, who await justice and continue to believe in Christ despite severe opposition, he added.

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