By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christians in eastern India mourn the death of an evangelical pastor who was reportedly killed amid ongoing anti-Christian violence in the Hindu-majority nation.
Indian Pastor Alok Rajhans of the Christo Seva Ghar (Christ Service House) was murdered in his church in Luasingha village in the Bolangir district of the country’s Odisha state, Christians said.
The May 20 attack on the pastor occurred late afternoon local time and involved about five perpetrators from the same village, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Pastor Rajhans, 55, is survived by his wife Subhashini and son Ujjwal Prakash Rajhans, 28, added advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The group said the troubles began when locals hurled stones at the church on May 19, which continued to the next day. “On May 20, Pastor Rajhans was in the church building with some of his congregants when he noticed people pelting stones at the church,” CSW reported.
The pastor then “asked his church members to return to their homes before confronting the perpetrators,” CSW recalled. The rights activists said the church attackers were infuriated when the pastor raised his voice. “It is believed that the perpetrators were looking for an opportunity to cause further trouble.”
The assailants proceeded to attack Pastor Rajhans with rods, stones, and knives, Christians said. His wife also sustained injuries to her arm when she tried to intervene to stop their attempts to stab her husband, reported CSW, which investigated the case. “In the midst of the attack, Pastor Rajhans is reported to have been struck in the back of the head with an unidentified object.”
The pastor’s son, who was away during the attack, took his father to a government hospital in Bolangir District for medical treatment. He was reportedly pronounced dead on arrival by the medical staff who attended to him.
A police forensics team has been investigating, but post-mortem results were readily available Tuesday. Christians said two of the suspected attackers have been detained, but it was unclear whether they were still in custody Monday. “A First Information Report (FIR), required by the police to start an investigation, has been registered in this case,” CSW said.
Subhashini has remained in the family home in the village, while the pastor’s son Ujjwal reportedly said he would continue “in his father’s ministry despite the family tragedy.”
Twelve Christian families live in Luasingha village, which is dominated by supporters of the hardline Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas told Worthy News that the “gruesome attack demonstrates the appalling plans at play to rid the village of Christians.” He stressed that minorities in Hindu-majority India “are often subjected to harassment and fear simply for exercising their freedom of religion or belief.”
Perpetrators of “such violent acts should not be allowed to enjoy impunity for their crimes”, He added. “We urge the authorities to apprehend the attackers and to ensure that those who act behind the scenes to perpetuate hate and intolerance are brought to justice.”