Warn of consequences if they don’t reconvert to Hinduism by Sunday
1:00 a.m. Eastern
More than 60 Christian coverts in northern India will be burned to death if they refuse to return to Hinduism by Sunday, a group of extremists has warned.
The radical Hindus severely beat the converts’ pastor, Feroz Masih, in a Nov. 4 attack in the state of Himachal Pradesh, accusing him of "forcibly converting" Hindus, reported Compass Direct, a news service that monitors persecution of Christians.
Masih sustained internal injuries requiring medical treatment and still is recovering.
The pastor’s son, Ramesh, told Compass Direct the estimated 10 attackers were members of the World Hindu Council and its youth wing Bajrang Dal, which has been blamed for waves of attacks against Christians and other religious minorities since the rise of the Hindu nationalist party BJP in the late 1990s.
The attackers forced Masih, 62, to sign a document stating his willingness to participate in a ceremony Sunday in which all of the Christians would convert back to Hinduism, Ramesh said.
If the pastor or church members refuse to participate, they will be burned to death, the radicals warned.
Masih and his son lead a local congregation related to Believer’s Church in India that meets in their home in the town of Baijnath.
The radical Hindus said they would come to the house Sunday to read from the Gita, the Hindu scripture, and convert the Christians back to Hinduism.
The two church leaders sent a letter of complaint to officials at the local police station in Baijnath and the National Commission for Minorities, Compass Direct said.
The letter included the names of six of the attackers: Harbans Lal, Madan Lal, Santosh Kumar, Ravi Kumar, Jitender Kumar, and Bablu Kumar.
But Compass said the police regarded the beating as a "minor incident."
"An official complaint [regarding the attack] has not been registered, and no one has been arrested," said Constable Rakesh Kumar.
According to Kumar, the VHP attacked Masih based on the complaint of a local resident, Prakash Chand, who alleged Masih forcibly converted his wife two years ago. Kumar said police believe Masih did not use force.
Masih’s son, however, said the beating was inspired by local media reports that claimed his father was forcibly converting Hindus.
"We simply preach the message of peace and joy as given in the Bible. All the believers who attend the worship … have embraced Christianity out of their own will," he said.
The Masihs, who are connected to K.P. Yohannan’s Gospel for Asia missionary group, say they still are waiting for a police response to the death threats.
Yohannan said it’s not clear that the police will take any action, noting the area is dominated by a large temple to the Hindu god Shiva, which draws thousands of pilgrims.
The threat, he said, is reminiscent of the brutal murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in 1999 by Hindu radicals in the state of Orissa, who vowed to burn alive anyone who did not renounce their new faith.
"What is most important now is that we pray for this situation," said Yohannan. "These brothers and sisters have chosen by their own free will to follow Christ. I urge you to pray for their protection, and that God will surround them with His angels and turn back any violence. Please also pray for their attackers, that their hearts will be softened and that God will work a miracle in their lives."
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