By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Several Christian families in eastern India are recovering from physical and mental injuries after being beaten, evicted, or ostracized for converting to Christianity, Worthy News established Wednesday.
The incidents in the states of Odisha and neighboring Jharkhand are the latest in a series of attacks against devoted minority Christians in the mainly Hindu nation.
Christians said that in Odisha, four Christian families were beaten and evicted from their village of Ladamila in the district of Kandhamal because they had converted to Christianity.
When they tried to return, the Christians reportedly found their homes torched. They were told they were no longer welcome as they had become Christians, according to sources involved in their case.
Separately on September 19, several Christian women were prevented from drawing water from the main well. The women instead filled their containers at the paddy field, Christian rights investigators said.
“In response, a group of villagers attacked the Christians in their homes, ransacking the houses and discarding the water they had collected,” said Christian charity Barnabas Fund. That made it “impossible for them to cook or wash,” the group added.
Measures to deprive Christians of communal water sources are not uncommon in India, local Christians noted. “It is a typical first response by the community to new believers, or a growing group of Christians to prevent them from using even bore wells supplied by the government,” Barnabas Fund explained.
While two families found refuge with relatives in a neighboring village, the other two families fled to the forest, Christians said.
When they attempted to return to the village, they reportedly discovered that their homes had been destroyed. John Barwa, a Christian leader in Odisha, called it “very painful and shameful that nothing is stopping the aggression and harassment of the Christians.”
In a statement, he called it “inhuman behavior.” He added: “What can you say about people who deny their own villagers water to drink?”
The incidents echo similar expulsions of Christians in Odisha earlier this year.
In April 2021, eight Christian families were reportedly driven out of the village of Sikapai in the Rayagada district by suspected Hindu extremists who destroyed their homes.
The turmoil in Odisha came while three Christian families in Jharkhand were ostracised by their village for converting to Christianity, Worthy News learned. The families from the 700-strong Mangapat Sirsai village who became Christians a year ago were banned by the village council on September 17 from accessing common land, according to rights investigators.
It came as a setback as it was there where they would graze cattle. They were also excluded from social gatherings, Christians said.
Other villagers were apparently being instructed not to interact with the Christian families. “This ostracism aims to coerce the Christian families into returning to the tribal Sarna belief system centered on the worship of nature,” Barnabas Fund commented.
Gabbar Singh Hembrom, district president of a youth organization of local tribal people, reportedly warned that any villagers not complying with this boycott would be fined.
Hembrom was quoted as saying: “The entire village follows the Sarna religion except for Raut Bankira, Rajendra Bankira, and Hiralal Bankira, who converted to Christianity along with their families a year ago. We are ready to accept them if they return to our faith, but they refused.”
Incidents of persecution against Christians have intensified across India in what the Evangelical Fellowship of India called “an environment of targeted hate.” The provincial central authorities have been unable or unwilling to intervene, Christians say.
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