– International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that 10 Christian families in the Latehar District of India’s Jharkhand State were driven out of their homes after refusing to recant their Christian faith in early June. Since then, these families have not been able to return to their homes with local authorities unable or unwilling to provide assistance.
On June 5, 10 Christian families from Pahli village in Latehar District were summoned to a meeting with local radicals who told them to recant their Christian faith or leave the village. When the Christians refused, they were severely beaten and driven out of the village. After forcing the Christians out of the village, the radicals locked down the Christians’ homes.
“We are living in fear, away from our homes,” Shyamlal Kujju, age 25, told ICC. “It is almost a month since my house is locked by Hindu radicals and there is no attempt by the police or the government to resolve the issue. Our lives are devastated as we hide ourselves from the Hindu radicals. We do not know how long this will continue.”
According to Kujju, the 10 Christian families regularly worshiped in the home of a fellow Christian prior to the June 5 attack. The incident has been reported to local police in Balumat and police have unlocked some of the Christian houses, but took no action against the radicals.
In September 2017, Jharkhand adopted a Freedom of Religion Law, more commonly referred to as an anti-conversion law. This law both regulates religious conversions and criminalizes forced conversions. The term “forced conversion” remains legally ambiguous and Hindu radicals often abuse these laws to falsely accuse or justify assaults on Christians.
According to Christian leaders in Jharkhand, since the law was adopted, attacks on Christians have increased. Pastor Rajdev Toppo, a pastor familiar with Pahli village and the Latehar District, said, “Things have become increasingly difficult to serve as a pastor in Latehar. On a daily basis, I am threatened and ridiculed for teaching Christians the Word of God. The local government has not been helpful, including when cases of the Christians were taken to the police and administration.”
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned to see that 10 Christian families have been beaten and displaced for merely exercising their religious freedom rights. Article 25 of India’s constitution says that every individual has the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate the religion of his or her choice. This right has obviously been denied to these 10 Christian families in Pahli village. Local authorities must take decisive action to correct this denial of rights and arrest those involved in the June 5 attack. Without enforcement, India’s religious freedom rights will remain only words on paper and attacks on Christians and other religious minorities will continue to rise in both number and severity.”