By BosNewsLife News Center
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Suspected Muslim militants have destroyed an evangelical underground house church of Christian mission group Salem Voice Ministries (SVM) in a volatile area of India's Kerala state, an official confirmed to BosNewsLife Friday, January 4.
"One of our house churches was totally demolished by a mob of Muslim extremists," in the Sunnam Potty area of Malabar region late Saturday, December 29, hours after a baptism service there for Christian converts, said Pastor Paul Ciniraj, who leads SVM.
"Our pastor Mildad miraculously escaped from the attackers," Ciniraj told BosNewsLife, adding that the church leader and his family still face "death threats."
SVM Investigators said the troubles began when a mob of up to 15 people arrived by cars and vans armed with spades, pick axes, iron bars and other weapons and "totally demolished" the church.
Local Christians suspect the attackers were activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which opposes the spread of Christianity in India. SIMI did not confirm the attack.
Ciniraj, who visited the site, said the militants may have been angered by reports that Muslims converted to Christianity and that some participated in a baptism service. "There was a baptism service held on the morning of December 29. Eight youngsters and three couples were baptized. Although it was a secret service, the news somehow leaked out. That might have provoked the extremists to demolish the church," he explained.
The Christians were part of about 50 young people, most of them from a Muslim background, who gathered "each week under the leadership of Pastor Mildad to worship the Lord Jesus Christ in Spirit and Truth," the SVM leader said.
The building was from a Christian family who has been “threatened” in recent days for giving their house, rent-free, for prayer and worship, SVM said. The latest attack came after a series of reported violent incidents against Christians in India in recent weeks, including in the state of Orissa where up to nine Christians died since December 24 in what church officials and human rights watchers described as a "pre-planned attack" by Hindu extremists.
Despite the setbacks, SVM said it will continue its evangelistic and relief activities among orphans and other impoverished people. It also restored water supplies of a village over Christmas in Tamil Nadu state and plans to distribute thousands of Bibles in the Tamil and Urdu languages, said Ciniraj. Christians, who comprise less than three percent of India’s mainly Hindu population of 1.1. billion, have increasingly been targeted by Hindu and Muslim nationalist groups, human rights groups say. (With BosNewsLife Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos).
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