By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian villagers in rural northern India have reportedly fled their homes after an angry mob attacked their prayer house and threatened to kill or rape believers. Five suspects were briefly detained, but violence continued, rights activists told Worthy News.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said at least two Christian families from Dassmora village in the Azamgarh District of Uttar Pradesh state escaped the town.
They left their homes and livestock behind on Saturday, July 4, “amid fears for their lives,” added CSW, which investigated the violence.
The crowd was also seen tearing down the walls, breaking windows and doors, and destroying Mr. Akhilesh Kannaujia’s motorcycle,” CSW said.
Kannaujia and Sunita Maurya founded the prayer home in 2018. The described violence against them and other worshipers was the latest in a series of incidents targeting devoted Christians in India, a predominately Hindu nation.
“Christians in the village began to experience harassment” last week when a mob of about 35 villagers entered their prayer house in the village, according to CSW investigators.
The mob verbally abused those inside the prayer house said Christians familiar with the situation. CSW cited a local source as saying that some 500 people from neighboring villages visited the home for prayers.
“The following day, the same mob broke into the prayer house again and ransacked it, assaulting the prayer house’s pastor, Vikas Gupta. The mob threatened to rape and murder those gathered there, and to burn the house down if the Christians did not leave the village, “ CSW explained in a statement.
Pastor Gupta was “then dragged to the local temple shrine where he was forced to bow before an idol,” CSW stressed.
He was forced to promise” not to seek police help in the matter,” CSW recalled. Amid the pressure, victims were initially too scared to register a First Information Report (FIR), which is required for police to open an investigation, rights activists claimed. But after the attack against their pastor and others, Christians informed the local Bardah police station about the incident, Worthy News learned.
Security forces detained five men linked to the attack; however, the villagers attacked the prayer house again in retaliation. The mob caused $2,500 in local currency in property damage, a huge amount in this impoverished area, Christians said.
But suspects were reportedly released after some 100 people asked the Bardah police station to release the detained men.
Amid the turmoil, the “two Christian families living in the village took refuge in the police station that day...before relocating them to an undisclosed location to seek shelter,” CSW said.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told Worthy News that his group is “deeply concerned by the repeated attacks these families have had to endure. They have lost both their livelihood, and their fundamental freedom to worship.”
He confirmed that CSW requested local police to “properly investigate the matter” and bring the perpetrators to justice. “We call on the authorities to take corrective measures to ensure these families are able to resume their way of life. And support the faith of other Christians in the surrounding villages.”
There was no known public reaction of authorities. India’s government has come under pressure to protect minority Christians and other non-Hindu groups.
Christians comprise roughly 2 percent of India’s mainly Hindu population of 1.3 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).