Santosh Digal, Worthy News Asia Correspondent
NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)– An evangelical church in central India celebrated Easter this weekend after police harassment and threats from suspected Hindu militants who accused local believers of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity, an evangelical umbrella organization said.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFA) said dozens "extremists" of hard-line Hindu group Dharma Sena, or 'Army of Religion', stormed the Apostolic Christian Assemblies church in Madhya Pradesh state last week, Palm Sunday, before police detained several pastors and worshipers.
At least 36 "extremists shouting Hindu slogans broke into the prayer meeting" of the church, located in an area of the state's main city of Jabalpur, EFA added in a statement obtained by Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
Police soon arrived on the scene and took Pastor Francis Xavier, two associate pastors and four church members to a police station after pressure from militants, EFA said.
"Prior to the attack, the area Dharma Sena leader Yogesh Agarwal filed a police complaint against the Christian of conversion activities” and "then marched towards the church with about 35 Dharam Sena members" to carry out the attack, according to EFA investigators.
Following the incident, about 100 Christians were seen walking to the police station carrying banners “Masih Shakti Samiti”, or "People with Christ’s power" and pressured the police for justice, said a participant, Pastor Sylvester Lal.
Police eventually released Pastor Xavier and the other Christians as "police found that the allegations against them were false and baseless," EFA said.
Yet, the incident has added to concerns among several evangelical churches in India, including in the area around India's capital New Delhi.
Last month Pastor Galdwin Masih and another Christian identified only as Pritam were reportedly attacked by Hindu militants following a prayer meeting in the Seema Puri area of Delhi.
"As Pastor Masih and Pritam were returning home, about 25 extremists stopped them on the road and battered them with cricket stumps and hockey sticks, leaving their bodies badly bruised," EFA said about the March 25 incident.
Although police arrived at the scene, no arrests were reported Monday, April 5.
Devoted Christians in India have been increasingly targeted by Hindu groups opposed to missionary activities and the spread of Christianity in this overwhelmingly Hindu nation of some 1.2 billion people, church leaders say.