“Around 250 people surrounded my house, they caught hold of me and dragged me for about half a kilometer to the nearby temple. When we arrived at the temple they pushed me towards the idol and ordered me to bow down; I mustered all the strength that was left within me and said, ‘I will die but I will not bow to this idol.’”
Khushal, a 50-year-old Pastor from central India, describes the ordeal he suffered last year because of his faith in Jesus, and his work as a pastor in his village. He was attacked by a mob of people from his village and nearby villages who had been turned against him by Hindu extremists. He had received many threats from Hindu extremists before and last year they riled up the local villagers to attack him brutally.
His dark eyes are moist as he shares about what could have been the most challenging moments of his life. “They showered kicks and blows on me the whole time. It was the entire mob taking turns to hit me; they were shouting abuses at me, blaming me of luring innocent Hindus to Christianity.
“I was barefoot and bruised…After some time, despite the beatings, there was no pain because my body had become numb due to the excessive beatings. I was extremely fearful of what awaited me next.”
Every £22 could resource a local Rapid Response team for a month as they bring emergency aid to victims of violence, such as food and medical care.
The beatings and verbal abuses continued for over two hours until the police arrived and took Khushal to the police station. Khushal furrows his brows as he continues, “I really thought the police would help me, but instead they questioned me about how much I give to people to convert them to Christianity. I was appalled. I told them, ‘I only pray for people; they convert to Christianity when they see miracles happening.’ But no one believed me.”
The rough, verbally abusive and intense interrogation continued, and finally, two false cases were filed against him - one blaming him for converting people to Christianity using fraudulent means, and the other accusing him of causing riots.
However, Khushal was released the next day, as many local Christian leaders protested and worked to secure bail for him. He says, “After my release, I was happy to be home, but inside my heart I was deeply troubled. It occurred to me that such things could happen again at any time! My family also became very fearful. They kept fretting over my ministry and forced me to stay indoors.”
He then shares about difference it made to receive persecution survival training through Open Doors local partners. “Within a week of this incident, I was invited to a persecution survival training in a city nearby by a pastor I knew. I hesitated because it would mean that I had to leave my family behind, but I finally decided to go.”
After attending the training, Khushal says he received inner healing. He says, “I felt my inner strength coming back to me. I was no longer worried about my family or any other earthly dangers. In fact, I was immensely moved when I heard testimonies about other people who were brutally beaten, imprisoned for years and even killed for faith. I also saw pictures of houses that were destroyed and photos of families of people who were killed. I realised I was much better off.”
He continues, “During the training I felt the warmth of God’s love and his protection. It felt as if God intended to bring me here to learn. I shared my testimony and my concerns. Many people prayed for me and I was a new person. Much more mature and much bolder!”
Every £67 could provide persecution survival training for four church leaders like Sujit, training them in a biblical response to persecution and helping them to understand their legal rights.
Khushal smiles broadly as he talks about his experience with his family after the training. “When I went back home, I shared about the persecution stories that I had learned during the seminar. My wife was especially surprised to see the change in me and she was greatly encouraged.”
Khushal shares about how the persecution incident impacted his life: “Such incidents do impact your life. Though I was strong throughout the time when the persecution took place and refused to bow down to the idol, I suffered mental trauma for days afterwards.
“Had it not been for the persecution survival training, my life would have been so different. I probably would not have backed off my faith, but it could have impacted my ministry in a great way. The seminar reached me at the right time. It worked to strengthen me, my church members and my family.”
His expression changes to a more solemn one as he continues. “There were four families from my church who backed off from their Christian faith after this incident. I feel sorry that I couldn’t convince them to stay firm in their faith, but I am glad that the majority of my church is very strong.”
Khushal continues to live in the same village with the same people who were once hostile to him. Many of them apologised to him a few months after the incident and confessed that they had been poisoned against him by the extremists.
He leans forward as he describes his current situation. “Right now things have grown calmer and the people living around my house have acknowledged that I had been framed. But in all circumstances I know God is with me.”
He then adds a final statement in a very strong tone. “Now I do not fear death. Everyone dies one day. I have understood that if I die a little early because of my faith or ministry, I know God will take care of my family and everything else that concerns me.”
STAND WITH YOUR CHURCH FAMILY IN INDIA
Open Doors church partners estimate that almost 24,000 Christians were physically attacked in India last year because of their faith. India is number 11 on the 2018 World Watch List, Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution, its highest ever position.
Hindu extremists are stepping up their efforts to free India of Christians – so we must step up our response. Open Doors has been working through local churches and partners in India since 2000, and the work they do is already extensive, but they have a plan to double their impact and extend their reach to every corner of India over the next two years.
Your long-term support can help to make that plan a reality. Every £22 could resource a local Rapid Response team for a month as they bring emergency aid to victims of violence, such as food and medical care.
FOUR WAYS TO PRAY FOR INDIA
The theologian Andrew Murray says, “Most churches… don’t know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, and that through prayer the church on earth has access to the power of the heavenly world.” When we stand with our persecuted church family in prayer it is truly powerful.
We will be including prayer points for India in our prayer diary and our monthly email every month for the next two years to help you pray for your church family in India on a regular basis. Looking for other ways to pray? Here are some ideas:
On your own: A lot of our tea is grown in India. When you’re making a cup of tea this month, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, ask God to bless and protect your church family in India. You could keep your copy of the prayer diary there for more specific prayer points.
With your family or small group: It’s National Curry week 9-15 October! Why not make a curry or order a take away with your small group or some friends, and spend some time praying for your church family in India as you wait for your food.
With your whole church: Order a free copy of Can you believe it? - our resource to help your whole church to pray for their persecuted church family around the world, including the story of Meena* from India.
With a brother from India: Come to our Standing Strong celebrations to hear Samson* share stories of faith and courage from the church in India, and stand with him in prayer.