Tuesday, December 8, 2020

RLPB 579. India: Beat, Boycott, Banish

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 579 | Wed 09 Dec 2020
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Also updates on Nigeria and Pakistan
By Elizabeth Kendal

Map showing distribution of
Scheduled Tribes.
(click on map to enlarge) 

On 24 November, in the north Indian tribal-belt state of Chhattisgarh, up to 100 Christians gathered in Singavaram Village, Sukma District, to organise festivities for the Advent season and to celebrate the dedication of a child. Rather that travel home late at night, those who had travelled in from surrounding villages spent the night in Singavaram Village, either in the home of the host, Madvi Muka (50), or in the large meeting tent beside his home. At around 1 am, a mob of around 50 angry tribal animists arrived on the scene armed with bamboo sticks, iron rods, bows and arrows and iron sickles. They attacked the believers as they slept, burned Bibles, ransacked the house, destroyed food supplies, vandalised at least ten motorcycles and attempted to rape a young Christian woman who, because she screamed loudly, they instead beat her 'black and blue', leaving her with internal injuries. Pastor Musaki Kosa, who leads the church that meets in Madvi Muka's home and attended the dedication, was among those who escaped by fleeing into the bush. Some Christians ran to a nearby Central Reserve Police Force camp, but the soldiers there refused to help.

Tribal Christian,
Madvi Muka.

The attack continued until dawn; only then did police attend the scene. Ambulances were called to take 21 (or possibly 27) Christians to hospital. Despite suffering deep lacerations and broken bones, many did not receive appropriate medical care. Host Madvi Muka (pictured) was taken to hospital in a critical condition, bleeding and struggling to breathe because of broken ribs from being severely beaten and shot with arrows. His son, Laxman Mandavi (21), told Morning Star News (MSN) that his father had been receiving threats for some time. Despite this, and the attackers' own claims that they were fighting to prevent religious conversions, the police insist that the motive for the attack was not religious. Instead, the police reported the incident as a 'common brawl' with no serious injuries. Afterwards, the villagers threatened to kill the Christians if they dared to lodge a complaint with the police. With that death threat hanging over their necks, many Christians opted to flee. According to MSN, 'About 25 Christians have taken refuge in Pastor Kosa's house in another town, including the injured and their families,' and only four Christian families remain in the village.

Later that day (25 Nov), the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) reported the incident on its Facebook page. The next day police arrived at the CCF office and took CCF President Arun Pannalal into custody. At around 10:30pm, after having held Mr Pannalal for over five hours, the police ordered him to apologise on Facebook for writing a false account. To force his hand, the police threatened him, warning that if he did not comply, they would charge him with a non-bailable offence and incarcerate him. [Report in Times of India.] According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), some 15 families in Singavaram Village embraced Christianity in 2008 and they have never had any trouble - until recently. The believers are certain that outsiders have been inciting the locals against them. No doubt it is the case, as Arun Pannalal (CCF) asserts, that 'Hindu, right-wing, fundamentalist organisations are behind this'.

Also complicit is the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2019 the BJP reversed its declining fortunes and secured re-election with an increased majority by way of a covert social media campaign. The classic divide-and-rule strategy involved creating a 'customised enemy for every group' and then positing the BJP as the solution. Individuals and groups were then 'micro-targeted' through Facebook and WhatsApp [see RLPB 506 'Christian Crisis in North India (12 June 2019)]. Long allies in the perpetual struggle against the racist, discriminatory and repressive Hindu caste system, the tribal non-Hindus are now indeed split, with the animists having joined the Hindu nationalists in their struggle against Christians over religious conversions. While the BJP wins, everyone else loses as communities once strong and harmonious are torn asunder only to remain impoverished. Furthermore, as a house divided against itself, the tribals are only weakened when Christians are beaten, boycotted and banished. The tribal belt is a tinderbox; in many regions the tension is pre-genocidal

Followers of traditional tribal religion attack Sattar Singh Markam, a Christian resident of Bargaon, Gariaband District, Chhattisgarh state, India. (Morning Star News, 8 Dec 2020)

[For more stories of Christian faithfulness amidst beatings, boycotts and banishments, see Morning Star News: India.]


* watch over, look after and provide for his mostly poor and persecuted Indian Church; may those who have been beaten and wounded be healed and comforted; may those who are suffering under economic and social boycotts find relief and provision; may those who have been banished from their homes and lands find security and liberty elsewhere; may every threatened and persecuted believer be acutely aware of God's eternal presence, sustaining grace, Fatherly love, and generous spirit.

* pour out his Holy Spirit into North India's tribal belt, to awaken tribal animists to the fact that they are being exploited by political forces whose intention it is to divide and weaken them; may they remember the blessings their Christian neighbours have brought them; may they yearn for the peace and solidarity they once had; may their hearts be prepared and opened to receive the Gospel of grace; may Satan's plot be turned on its head.

* intervene in power so there might be a breakthrough against the spiritual powers and forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12) currently holding around one billion Indians captive.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV).


India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) employs divide-and-rule strategies to retain power and weaken its opposition. It sows seeds of hatred into mixed communities to shatter solidarity and win over the majority. Vilified as existential enemies, minority Christians are always the victims. Consequently, persecution is skyrocketing under BJP rule. North India's tribal belt is a tinderbox, with tensions in some regions being pre-genocidal. In the early hours of 25 November, a mob of some 50 local tribal animists attacked tribal Christians as they slept. The Christians had gathered from several villages to plan for Advent and dedicate a child. By dawn, dozens had been beaten, shot with arrows and hacked with machetes. Perpetrators are guaranteed impunity. Most Christians have now fled the area. Such violence is common. Please pray.


Update to RLPBs 561 through 564, August 2020, on the Christian Crisis in Nigeria.

Boko Haram continues to wage a campaign of terror in Nigeria's north-east. On 29 November Abubakar Shekau's faction murdered 76 farmers working in a rice field in Jere, not far from the Borno capital, Maiduguri. The farmers were rounded up and tied up before having their throats slit. Many were totally decapitated in what was Nigeria's worst terrorist massacre of civilians this year.

On 17 November militant Fulani targeted the home of Christian community leader Haruna Kuye in Gidan Zaki Village in Zangon Kataf County, southern Kaduna. Haruna Kuye and his teenage son, Destiny Kuye, were shot dead as they slept in their beds while Kuye's wife and daughter survived with machete and gunshot wounds. On the night of 28-29 November, militant Fulani attacked Christian villages in Jema'a County, southern Kaduna, killing seven, wounding four and abducting two children. On 5 December Nigerian media reported that two suspects have been arrested over the Zangon Kataf attack, and Rebecca and Clement Andrew - the two children abducted in Jema'a County - have been recovered. That said, high level corruption is the primary reason why Nigeria's security forces are so ineffective.

Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state. Across the North and Middle Belt, Christian communities are awash with trauma as terrorism, persecution and ethnic cleansing continue unabated. [See new report: Nigeria's Silent Slaughter (online e-book) at https://iconhelp.org/silent-slaughter/ ] Please pray.


Update to RLPB 577, 'Pakistan's Real Pandemic' (25 November).

Farah Shaheen (12),
Farah Shaheen (12) - the Christian minor girl abducted from her home in Punjab Province on 25 June, forcibly converted to Islam and married to her Muslim abductor - has been recovered. On 5 December, under pressure from a court and the Punjab Province government, police raided her abductor's home and found Farah shackled in a room. Injuries to her ankles indicate that she had spent most of her time there in shackles. 'I'm grateful to the government and the court for ensuring my daughter's recovery, and I hope they will also punish the men who did this cruelty', Farah's father, Asif Masih, told Morning Star News. Police presented Farah before a judge who ordered that she be placed in a shelter home, ignoring her father's pleas that he be permitted to take her home. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com