HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – His father away from home due in part to coronavirus travel restrictions, a 12-year-old boy in Uttar Pradesh, India heard relatives angry at his family for refusing to renounce Christ pounding on the door late last night (June 18).
“It was past 11’o clock in the night when we heard them banging on the door and shouting,” he said. “Five men along with my uncle were standing at the door issuing threats that they would murder my brother and me.”
His terrified mother in the Ram Ganga Vihar area of Moradabad told her two sons, the other age 20, to run to the police station for safety while she locked the doors and would catch up with them, said the boy, whose name is withheld for security reasons. They ran past her brother and the five other drunken men who were screaming threats, and she followed shortly afterward, said his mother, 42-year-old Molly James.
“My brother and sister have portrayed me as a bad woman in this Hindu-dominant neighborhood for accepting Christianity,” James told Morning Star News. “They have been trying to expel my family from the area for the past three years.”
Her husband, Anil James, works 116 miles away in Delhi, and the lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus has kept him from returning home as often as he did before, she said.
“They took the chance to harass us in his absence,” Molly James said. “He is working hard to provide for our family, and he would not be granted a leave often to visit us. Before the coronavirus lockdown, we had been to the church regularly and had the moral support of fellow Christians. Now that we are locked inside home and alone, their harassment increased.”
Her brother lives on the third floor of the home the three siblings inherited, while James and her family live on the second floor. Her sister, also opposed to her Christian faith, lives on the ground floor.
Five men accompanied her brother to threaten them, and other drunken men were upstairs at her brother’s house, she said.
“I had to protect my children,” James said. “My brother was threatening that he would murder them.”
Last month five Hindu men intruded into her home with hockey sticks and steel rods and threatened to beat them, she said.
“I informed my husband over the phone, and we also called a police helpline number,” she said. “But the officers there instructed us not to come out of the home and cooperate with Hindus, as we are the only Christian family living in the area.”
After she and her sons arrived at the Civil Lines police station last night (June 18), officers made sure they arrived home and were safe, police spokesman Niraj Dhama said.
Today (June 19) James’ brother and sister told police who came to investigate that the issue was only a property dispute, alleging that James’ family had overstayed their time at the inherited house, James said.
“It appears to be a family dispute,” police spokesman Dhama told Morning Star News. “The SHO [Station House Officer] will make best efforts to resolve it within two days after having talks with both the families. If they do not arrive at peaceful terms, we will register cases against them and investigate the matter accordingly.”
James’ siblings falsely stated that the matter was a property dispute so that police won’t interfere, James said, adding that her brother again threatened her today, saying he would set the home ablaze and kill her and her two children.
Previously her siblings had told her that her family must resume Hindu rituals, such as eating food offered to gods, and stop worshipping Christ in order to remain at the house, she said. They also have objected to her older son rehearsing as a guitar player for the church’s worship team.
“My relatives and Hindu neighbors who play loud film music would object to my son singing Christian songs,” James told Morning Star News. “We pray as a family every morning and evening, and it’s a very small house; people can hear us, and right then they start laughing and mocking us.”
Her sister on the downstairs floor had begun following Christ but stopped under pressure, and since then she has pressured James to do the same, she said.
“Since my mother’s death in March 2017, they have been after me and my children,” James said. “My brother picks fights with me to prove that I am stupid to be holding on to Christian faith. He mocks me, ‘Oh, Mary Maata [Mother Mary],’ and threatens to call my husband to Moradabad, saying ‘Watch out! I would make sure he gets quarantined by the government.’”
The family seeks to vacate the house and move to a rented home near their church, she said.
“My younger one asks me, ‘Mommy, why do they treat us differently? Would all our life be spent like this, fighting with neighbors and relatives? When will church open? I don’t feel good here. Is God listening to our prayers?’” she said.
Her brother appears to have fled after learning of her police complaint, she said, adding that previously he spit on their door to frighten her children.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic started spreading, he is doing it all the more to scare us, and he also tells the neighbors and his friends that we belong to lower class, and that Christianity is the religion of lower castes and classes,” she said. “The neighbors also look down on my children, calling them lower class, so that it affects them mentally. They had been very outspoken about their faith at school and among their friends. I’m afraid that witnessing this amount of violence and aggression, and their fear, would affect them.”
Also in Uttar Pradesh, pastor Dinesh Kumar on May 28 was returning by motorbike to his home in Jamalpur Buland village, Mau District, after praying for a relative in neighboring Fatehpur village when he noticed four men chasing him.
“I could see from the rearview mirror that the men carrying lathis [bamboo clubs bound with iron] were following me,” Pastor Kumar said. “I sped up and tried to get off the road and take a different route, but at Mohiuddinpur cross, they were able to catch up with my speed, and one of them struck my head and back with a lathi.”
He lost control and fell, he said.
“Then the four of them surrounded me, kicked and beat me very badly, so that I bled profusely,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “I blacked out, and they left me there unconscious.”
He had been sheltering in due to the coronavirus lockdown when his ill brother-in-law and family called him for three days requesting that he come to pray for him, he said.
“After the government relaxed the restrictions a bit, I had finally set out to visit them,” the pastor said. “I reached Fatehpur at around 4 p.m. and spent a couple of hours chatting and encouraging them to pray and be stronger in faith.”
In the area some Muslims and upper-caste Hindus have become Christians, he said.
“I have been facing threats even more since a Muslim leader who was earlier conducting prayers at the mosque there put his faith in Christ,” Kumar told Morning Star News. “I would have died on the spot on that day if a passersby had not spotted me lying unconscious on the road.”
He was rushed to a hospital, then transferred to a private hospital in Mau, where doctors said he had lost a lot of blood and should be kept under observation for the next few days, his wife Mamta Kumar told Morning Star News.
Jagat Mohan Bind, an allied lawyer for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India, visited Pastor Kumar at the Mau hospital and helped the family file a police complaint.
Officers at the Madhuban police station registered cases against four assailants for attempt to commit culpable homicide and for voluntarily causing hurt under the Indian Penal Code.
Pastor Kumar said he is under medication and that his blood pressure sometimes fluctuates.
“I’m blacking out if I walk a few steps, and I suddenly start feeling like someone has pushed me and I am about to fall,” he told Morning Star News.
His wife said he has lost appetite, complains of headaches and has become uncharacteristically irritable.
“He would never get angry at anything before,” Mamta Kumar said. “We are a bit worried if the head injuries are serious and thinking of visiting the doctors again this week. The hospital bill came to around 35,000 rupees [US$460], and we were able to pay it only with the help of some kind-hearted Christians. I request prayers for my husband’s recovery. His treatment is expensive. We are depending on our Lord.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on April 28 urged the U.S. State Department to add India as a “Country of Particular Concern” to its list of nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 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 worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.