07/10/2021 India (International Christian Concern) – For the past three years, Pastor Hemant Meher has led a church of six Christian families in Danagadi village, India. On June 30, however, Pastor Hemant and his church were attacked by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists.
While leading praying, Pastor Hemant and his congregation were suddenly confronted by a mob of Bajrang Dal activists, a Hindu nationalist militant organization.
At least 20 members of the group surrounded the church as they began video recording and threatening the pastor with accusations of forced conversion. They accused Pastor Hemant of taking advantage of the poor by giving them food and money to convert them from Hinduism to Christianity.
The mob soon turned violent as they threw Pastor Hemant out of the church and put him between two men on a motorbike. Congregants followed behind as the pastor was taken away.
After traveling for some time, Pastor Hemant was thrown from the motorbike and into a field. The mob took his phone, and while recording, began to beat him ruthlessly. As they filmed, they warned other Christians of what would happen if they came to their area. A few Christian onlookers watched in horror while others ran away frightened. Pastor Hemant was beaten until he could no longer speak.
After 45 minutes, the mob brought Pastor Hemant to a nearby police station and formally accused him of forcibly converting people to Christianity. When the police questioned the pastor, he replied, “They (the converts) were all drinkers and gamblers, I taught them the good teachings and showed them the way towards life.”
The police called in the remaining Christian believers and asked them if what the pastor said was true. “His teachings changed us,” one replied, “And we have been leading a peaceful life for the past three years.”
After listening to their testimony, the police in charge of questioning became convinced. He advised Pastor Hemant to file a criminal report against the mob members, then escorted the pastor to his home.
Days later, members of the congregation were again confronted by a group of Bajrang Dal activists. The believers called the police, who came and forced the activists to flee.
On July 1, the mob returned in search of Pastor Hemant. Still recovering from his injuries, the pastor fled with all of his belongings, eventually fainting from the pain of his escape. The pastor tried to receive medical care but was turned away due to his inability to pay for treatment.
Sadly, stories such as this are all too common in India. Anti-conversion laws are widely abused by radical Hindu nationalists looking to exploit religious minorities. Christians are often falsely accused of forceful conversions to justify assault and intimidate believers.