Massive increase in persecution against Christians in India
Persecution against Christians in India is increasing at an unprecedented rate but Christians are urging love and forgiveness for their Hindu neighbours, according to the charity Open Doors.
The charity is highlighting the story of Christian converts Sunita and her sister Meena, who are now in hiding after being beaten severely for deciding to follow Christ.
Sunita was attacked with bamboo rods by a group of men until she was unconscious, then dragged to the edge of her town.
When she came to, her wrist was broken amd a bone was sticking out.
The crime against is just one among many. India was number 28 in the Open Doors World Watch List in 2014. Last year, it rose to 21. This year, it is number 17.
In 2015, Open Doors recorded 179 incidents of men, women and children being beaten by Hindu extremists. For the first quarter of 2016 alone, the charity recorded 132 such incidents.
"Sunita is only 25, but has already experienced more persecution than most will face in a lifetime. And yet, she has refused to give up her faith in Christ," said Open Doors which is paying their medical bills.
Christian persecution has increased enormously in India since 2014, said Open Doors. According to Pastor Sundar Singh, Christianity is opposed because of a desire to make India a Hindu nation. 'Homecoming ceremonies' are held to celebrate the 'reconversion' of Christians back to Hinduism.
If Christians refuse to recant their faith, they are chased out of their villages and beaten up, he said.
Meena said she and her sister decided to follow Jesus after hearing a Christian radio programme.
The villagers held a meeting and told her father that if she and her sister converted, they would have to leave. "No Christians could stay here."
She added: "The people came and dragged me out and beat me severely. One man was beating me with a bamboo stick. The stick hit my arm. One of the bones was broken and dislocated.
"I prayed for the people who beat me."
She prayed: "God, please forgive them, because they don't know you."
Her sister Sunita's response embraced self-sacrifice for Christ. "I can die or I can witness. Make me a witness for you," she prayed. As she hid from her attackers in a goat shed, she says: "I prayed that God's will be done."
She and her sister were beaten so hard that five of the bamboo sticks broke.
However, in spite of the persecution, the Church in India is growing fast. Pastors emphasise the need to respond with love to the Hindus who persecute them.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people interviewed.