Churches Deprived of Their Worship Buildings in Tamil Nadu, India

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – Churches in Tamil Nadu, India that had never experienced opposition now find Hindu extremists forcing them out of their places of worship, sources said.

In one case Hindu extremists called praying women prostitutes and threatened to kill them; in another case near Chennai, the state capital, police went door-to-door with a radical Hindu telling people not to meet for worship; in a third case, the owner of the property where the church meets ordered them to vacate after opponents set a fire inside.

In Vairichettipalayam village, Tiruchirappalli District, a mob of more than 25 Hindu villagers led by area Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders on Feb. 17 burst into a Christian’s home during an evening Bible study and prayer time where about 20 women and the pastor were meeting. Led by BJP leaders identified only as Ramesh and Ramachandran, the intruders told them they must vacate the place, Pastor Raju, who goes by a single name, told Morning Star News.

Asking who had given them permission to hold a Christian meeting, the BJP leaders and their aides told the Christians the house would be locked and they must leave immediately, he said.

“We tried to make him understand that we had been gathering as a house church for the past 15 years, and that we had not violated any law,” Pastor Raju told Morning Star News. “I said, ‘Why should we vacate?’”

The radical Hindus then began shouting obscenities at them, he said.

“One after the other, Ramachandran and his group started shouting at Christian women, ‘Have your husbands left you to prostitution, that you are following this pastor’s instructions? Today, you are calling him brother and he is sweetly calling you sister – soon he will make you all mother,’” he said. “When one sister tried to videotape all this, they started threatening us that we will be killed…the situation was turning to be out of control.”

One of the Christians managed to call the Upiliyapuram police station, and officers arrived and restored order, he said. The Christians filed a complaint on Feb. 19 and sent a copy to higher police officials, but police have not registered a First Information Report (FIR), he said.

On Feb. 24, one of Ramachandran’s close aides, identified as Ravi, followed the Christians on their way to worship and monitored the service, leaving before they could apprehend him, the pastor said.

“Since the church members are aware that they are keeping a close watch on us, they are too frightened to attend the services,” Pasor Raju said. “It is our own property, and we never faced such opposition in the past 15 years since we dedicated a part of our house for prayer services.”

The same mob disrupted another prayer service less than two miles away on Feb. 17, he added.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013 but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.