Christian woman found dead in Indian jungle 'was threatened by relatives over faith'

Samjeera, 20, was found dead in the Indian jungle on 14 June. Her local pastor says she received death threats from relatives over her growing Christian faithOpen Doors

A Christian young woman who appears to have died in an Indian jungle is the suspected victim of a faith-related murder, according to local Christians and the charity Open Doors.

The 20-year-old, known as Samjheera, was found dead in a jungle near where she lived in Dumra, Latehar District in Jharkhand on 14 June.

Her pastor Philip Tirkey says Samjeera, who was preparing to be baptised, became interested in the Christian faith after praying to Jesus two years ago and being healed of an illness.

According to Tirkey however, Samjeera's uncle and cousins were hostile about her conversion to Christianity and the young woman frequently complained to members of her church that she had received death threats from relatives.

The woman's relatives claimed she had fallen from a tree after going to the jungle to pick fruit, according to Open Doors. But there were reportedly no marks on her body indicating a fall and one local said that there were marks on her neck indicating strangulation.

Pastor Tirkey said: "Police were not involved and there was no opportunity given for investigation. Because she had been continuously threatened by her relatives with being killed if she converted to Christianity, we believe that she was murdered."

In line with Hindu tradition, Samjeera's body was burned on the day she died.

India is ranked 17 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which rmeasures the severity of persecution faced by Christians in 50 countries. India has risen on the list from 28 in 2014 and 21 in 2015.