By ICC's India Correspondent
International Christian Concern
Anti-Christian violence continues to flare up all across India as rightwing Hindu radicals take the BJP government's rise to power as license to perpetrate an onslaught of assaults on the minority community scot-free. There has been an escalation in brutality as Hindutva activists run rampant, attacking churches and Christians at an ever increasing rate in recent times.
One such incident took place in Malakpet area of Hyderabad and shocked the Christian community when Hindu radicals set fire to the thatched roof of Bethel Gospel Church in the middle of the night on February 2, 2014.
Pastor Christopher, the head pastor of Bethel Gospel Church, told ICC of the gruesome incident that shook him and his entire congregation to the core. Bethel Gospel Church was set on fire by unknown assailants suspected to be connected to Hindu radical groups. The anti-Christian activists carried out the attack during the early morning hours in an effort to inflict maximum damage to the church.
The church was burnt to ashes, everything inside the church including carpets, musical instruments, speakers and chairs were utterly destroyed.
"We are living in fear," the Pastor told ICC. "There have been continuous threats from the Hindu radicals. We Christians are treated as second-class citizens in this country."
During his 15 years of service, Pastor Christopher has been threatened by the Hindu radical group RSS on many occasions. Once, he was threatened by RSS to stop all church activities or else they would "chop him into pieces."
ICC came in contact with Pastor Christopher one month after the attack and was informed that the damage caused by the arson attack on the church was expensive and the believers who gather every Sunday at Bethel Gospel Church were unable to pay for the necessary repairs to restore the church to its original condition. This inability to cover repair the church forced the Christians of Bethel Gospel Church to gather in the damaged building they once called their church, exposing them to rain and other discomforts caused by bad weather.
With funds given by Christians around the globe to ICC's Community Rebuild Fund, ICC was able to initiate a project to assist the Christians of Bethel Gospel Church in repairing the roof, walls and other parts of their church building that were damaged in the February arson attack. ICC was also able replaced items that had been destroyed in the fire like carpets, the church's PA system, musical instruments and other items.
Following the completion of the project initiated by ICC, Pastor Christopher said, "I am so thankful to God and ICC for helping me to sustain and carry on the work of God in this area [Malakpet, Hyderabad]. When the incident took place, many sympathizers, pastors, Christian leaders and even political leaders visited and encouraged us, it was good gestures from those people. But I could not undo the damage caused in the incident."
"ICC has come and rescued us," Pastor Christopher continued. "They also took an interest in visiting the church that was burnt to ashes. We are very encouraged knowing that ICC helped undo the damage caused by the Hindu radical."
Pastor Christopher and the church are now encouraged by the fact that they are part of the larger family of God. This simple act of kindness has shown to them they are a part of a global church and this has further strengthened their faith and will help them continue to endure persecution.
Bethel Gospel Church is now able to meet for worship Sundays and also the midweek services without any problems caused by the arson attack on the church. The repairs have made the church a comfortable gathering place for these Christians who are daily forced to confront and endure persecution.
Persecution is an everyday reality for Indian pastors and Christian community as whole. Pastor Christopher of Bethel Gospel Church is only one of the many thousands in India who face attacks and threats because of their faith in Christ. The small gesture of kindness shown to these Christians in India through ICC's assistance project has already had a large impacted and will continue to impact these Christians' faith and walk with Jesus.
ICC assisted the Christians of Bethel Gospel Church in repairing the roof, walls and other parts of their church building that were damaged in an arson attack.
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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