New details about the severe persecution that Christians faced over the Christmas holiday in Orissa, India, continues to pour in from Gospel for Asia field
correspondents. Many of the victims, which include GFA native missionaries and other believers, are still enduring opposition from anti-Christian extremists.
The latest incident occurred on January 5 when a group of radicals smashed a plaque that hung on a Jesus Well in their village. The well was recently built by a church where GFA-supported missionary Puru Nilay is pastor.
“We want the well, but we do not want Jesus,” the extremists told the believers while the well was being constructed. They also sternly commanded Puru not to place the Christian plaque on the well.
Wanting to give glory to the Lord, Puru and the believers did attach the plaque to the Jesus Well. Then last Saturday, the extremists completely destroyed it. Following the vandalism, they threatened Puru, telling him to stop ministering in their village. The radicals did not damage the well, just the plaque.
Beaten and Humiliated for the Gospel
In another area of Orissa, all of the GFA-supported missionary were persecuted and many have been forced to go into hiding. Matish Junni, the missionary who extremists beat and shaved his head, is serving in this district.
On December 23, Matish and his family boarded a bus to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with a church in a nearby village where he serves as pastor. A member of an extremist group followed them onto the bus. When they pulled into a remote village the radicals told the bus driver to stop and then
kicked Matish out of the bus and onto the ground.
Immediately, a group of 30 extremists surrounded Matish and began severely beating him. Although Matish’s wife and children stood by weeping loudly and calling for help, no one came to their rescue. As the beating continued, Matish’s eyes, nose and ears started bleeding, and he fell unconscious.
Then the mob dragged Matish to a local barber shop and forced the barber to completely shave his head. They also applied a red powder to his head and dressed him in their traditional religious garb. Parading Matish around the village, the extremists took him to their temples and tried to force him to bow down to their gods.
“I serve the living God, and I will not bow down to anyone except Him,” Matish told the mob. Upon hearing this, they began beating him in front of his family again. Then finally, one of the radicals told the mob to stop. Before leaving, they stole all of Matish’s belongings and told him never to minister in their area again.
Following the attack, police took Matish into their custody in order to protect him. His wife fled with their children to his uncle’s home in another village. After Matish was examined at a local hospital, the police released him and he joined his family where he is still recuperating.
On December 28, while the family was in hiding, the extremists went to Matish’s home and burned it down. The attack destroyed everything the family owned. Matish and his family are seeking the Lord for His direction in their ministry.
A Church Destroyed
Anti-Christian extremists in this area of Orissa left a church building in ruins on December 26. The believers had used the brand-new building for a Christmas service the day before and were planning an official building dedication service for January 3.
The radicals had opposed the building’s construction by threatening GFA-supported missionary Anand Nipun, the pastor of the church. But because the
construction had already begun, Anand and the believers decided to go through with building.
On the morning of December 26, the extremists sent a message to Anand telling him to leave the village immediately or he would be killed. So Anand and his family sought refuge in another village. That evening, the extremists vandalized and destroyed the building. They also wrote on a wall of the church, “Constructing the church in this place will cost you your life.” Then the mob went to Anand’s home and set his belongings on fire inside, damaging much of the house as well.
They Have Nothing but Faith
GFA-supported missionary Bidra Nayak was also forced to seek shelter from angry extremists in the area where he ministers. After being severely threatened, he escaped from the village on Christmas Eve.
The radicals also threatened many of the believers who attend Bidra’s church. One believer even lost his livelihood when a mob burned down the grocery store he owned.
Bidra remains in hiding, as the anti-Christian sentiments are still strong in this village. He is praying that the Lord will make a way for him to return to his ministry there soon.
Countless other reports of continuing atrocities against Christians in Orissa have recently been shared. According to a GFA field correspondent, more than 1,000 homes have been burned and more than 12 people have been killed across the state since Christmas. Several church buildings have been damaged or destroyed as well.
Many Christians, including a GFA-supported missionary, have sought shelter in the forests. Because tensions are still high, there is little hope for them to be
able to return home anytime soon.
GFA-supported missionary are doing everything they can to minister to the people in these areas. They request prayer that the attacks from anti-Christian extremists would stop and their attackers would come to know the love of Christ. They also ask for prayer for the many believers who are being threatened and attacked, that the Lord would give them strength and peace to endure these difficult situations.