By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)-- Christians in two Indian states were still recovering of injuries and shock Tuesday, January 11, after Hindu militants attacked a church and Christians as part of their battle against the spread of Christianity among Hindus, Christians said.
The latest known attack was aimed at the evangelical Alpha Bible Church in the city of Balaghat in India's central Madhya Pradesh state where 25 "angry extremists" barged in the worship meeting, according to church members.
The militants, believed to be members of the radical Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) group, took the Bible from Pastor Mahendra Nagdeve, tore it up and beat him and other believers, witnesses said.
Police is reportedly investigating the incident, but no arrests were made Tuesday, January 11. The attack came just days after elsewhere in the state a Christian evangelist was reportedly assaulted by Hindu militants from the Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sena groups.
Evangelist Devanand Dandale was distributing Gospel tracts in the Damoh Naka area of Jabalpur city when "four extremists stopped him and questioned him from where he got his money and started beating him up," said his friend Akhilesh Edgar. "They kicked, punched, slapped, and pulled his hair, taking rupees 4000/- from him," in the December 26 attack, he explained.
He borrowed the money from friends to have some ready cash with him to meet the expenses of his pregnant wife, Edgar said.
Local Hindu-leaning dailies said the converted Christian "forcefully converted" people to Christianity. Evangelical Christians have consistently denied these allegations, saying Christianity is based on a free choice of people for Christ.
Police have launched an investigation. While his mobile phone was somehow returned to him, the money remains missing, Christians said. A fellow pastor in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh was also attacked on December 26 and Hindu militants allegedly forced him to worship at a Hindu temple in Secunderabad city.
The "extremists with their faces covered" attacked Pastor Jonathan D from behind his back, pushed him into a vehicle, and held him for about 6 hours, Christians said.
The next day he was allegedly forced to enter a Hindu temple in a thick forested area. When he refused to enter, militants reportedly mistreated the evangelist and forced him to bow down before the idols and to shout “Jai Shri Ram” a cry of devotion to a Hindu god. They continued to beat, verbally abused and threatened him, according to Christians investigating the case.
The pastor was able to escape around midnight on December 28, hile the assailants were fast asleep, church members said.
He walked about 15 kilometres, found a main road, and was eventually able to call his family. His family and church members picked him up by auto rickshaw and returned to the town of Medak, where he has been recovering, Christians said.
The attacks have underscored concerns among active churches about growing Hindu extremism in this predominantly Hindu nation of over 1 billion people.
Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his annual address to diplomats Monday, January 10, on religious freedom, saying governments should do more to ensure Christians can practice their faith without discrimination or violence. He also called for India's neighbor, Pakistan, to repeal its anti-blasphemy laws, under which several Christians have been detained.
At least one of them, Christian woman Asia Bibi, has received the death penalty for "blasphemy" against Islam, charges she denies. (With editing by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).
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