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Persecution on the rise in India: Fanatics use snakes to threaten Christian pastor

From January 2016 to April 2020, Persecution Relief, an inter-denominational organization dedicated to helping the Church in India, reported 1,961 cases of hate crimes against Christians in the country. It is but a fraction of the total number of such incidents, according to Shibu Thomas, founder of the organization.

He shares the story of Pastor Challadorai, who, for the last few years, has been pushed out of various buildings for organizing religious events.

Founder, Persecution Relief
“They had gathered with around 30 believers in a rented place to worship, and it was evening time. It was almost dark, so a few fanatics just barged in, and they just walked inside the campus and they held the pastor by his neck. They asked everybody to [leave], [saying that] from next Sunday onward, 'nobody should come here.' Literally they had snakes in their hands, and they were telling them that 'if you don't leave this place, we will leave the snake here, and the snakes will bite you.'”

This isn't an isolated incident. Persecution Relief has recorded a rapid increase in the number of hate crimes, including physical and verbal abuse and the burning of bibles. 

The nationwide lockdown hasn't put a dent in the number of cases. Instead, Shibu Thomas says fanatics are identifying and targeting Christians who are helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founder, Persecution Relief
“If a Christian organization or mission organization goes to get the supplies, like groceries, to the poor people, immediately the village people come in [saying], 'you are coming out to convert people.' FLASH So any Christian doing any social activity is termed as 'conversion' now. So it's a very dangerous situation as far as even doing social work is concerned, if you are a Christian.”

It's precisely in response to this targeting of Christians that Persecution Relief offers financial, political, legal and even spiritual support.

Founder, Persecution Relief
“We have, 24-seven, people praying for the persecuted people, so that they stand strong in their faith, and none of them should be lost. The biggest point is that we should not have any hatred toward the persecutors, because that's the quality of a real Christian.”

Despite the fear caused by constant threats to their safety, many Christians in India, including Pastor Challadorai, continue to courageously live out their faith, thanks to the support of organizations like Persecution Relief, whose mission and motto is to serve the persecuted and love the persecutor.