India: Young Pastor Found Dead in Andhra Pradesh

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Police investigate state’s fourth known murder of a Christian worker.

NEW DELHI, India (Compass Direct News) -- The body of a 29-year-old pastor was found with stab wounds on February 20 in a canal in Krishna district of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Pastor Goda Israel was found dead last Tuesday in a canal near his house in Pedapallparru village in the Gudivada area of the district.

Israel had worked independently in the area since graduating from Emmanuel Bible Institute of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), in Rajasthan state’s Kota district, in February 2003. The slain pastor, who is survived by his wife and small children, was overseeing 15 churches that he established in the region.

“Pastor Israel had earlier been threatened by Hindu extremists due to his involvement in the preaching of the gospel in the area, and he had no enmity with anyone,” an EMI leader who requested anonymity told Compass. He added that persecution of Christians was common in Andhra Pradesh.

On February 17, Israel went for his usual prayer meeting at a nearby village but did not return, the source said. Israel’s family members went to the Gudivada police station to seek help, but officers declined to conduct a search.

“[Police] instead told them that he would come back soon and that there was nothing to worry about,” the source said.

Inspector Venkat Rao confirmed that Israel was murdered. “We have filed a case under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, and the autopsy report is awaited,” he said.

Rao said he could not say what injuries Israel had suffered until the autopsy report was completed, but the EMI source said the pastor’s body was found with stab wounds.

Asked if Hindu extremists were behind the killing, inspector Rao said that could not be known with certainty as the case was still under investigation.

“Once we have an initial report of the findings, we will make arrests,” Rao said. “We assure you that the slain pastor and his family members will get justice.”

Previous Murders

Compass has reported on three previous, mysterious and brutal murders of Christian workers in Andhra Pradesh.

Two pastors, K. Daniel and K. Isaac Raju, were killed near Hyderabad, the state capital, in May 2005.

Unknown persons called both pastors by phone before they disappeared, asking if they would act as wedding celebrants. Raju went to meet a caller in Anantpur district on May 24, 2005 and disappeared; an unidentified caller then phoned police on June 2, describing where to find Raju’s body.

Similarly, callers met Daniel in a motorized rickshaw on May 21 and took him to a cemetery in Karwan, where they severely beat him, strangled him, and then dumped his body on the city outskirts.

The New Indian Express newspaper on June 27, 2005 quoted a man identified only as Goverdhan who claimed he and two friends had murdered the two preachers.

“I am not against Christianity, but Raju and Daniel converted hundreds of Hindu families,” Goverdhan said. “They enticed them with money. We have done this to prevent further conversions. This act should be a lesson for others.”

On September 11, 2000, two unidentified persons beheaded Pastor Yesu Dasu, 52, on the outskirts of Mustabad in Andhra Pradesh’s Karimnagar district.

Dasu’s body was found in a pool of blood at a cattle shed near Kothakunta, along the Mustabad-Siddipet highway, three kilometers (nearly two miles) from Karimnagar. Hindu extremists had earlier warned Dasu to cease preaching or face the consequences.

Seven years later, Dasu’s case remains unsolved.

Although Andhra Pradesh state is ruled by the Congress Party, with Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, a Christian, as the chief minister, Hindu extremists are highly active in the state. Accusing Reddy of giving a free hand to Christian missionaries, the extremists launch frequent attacks against Christian workers.

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