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Indian pastor was beaten unconscious after leading 5 families to Christ

(Reuters/Adnan Abidi)People take part in a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. Picture taken August 29, 2014.

A pastor in Southern India was beaten unconscious by suspected Hindu extremists just weeks after they accused him of forcibly converting five families to Christ.

Pastor Banothu Sevya was in a coma for two days after he was beaten by masked men on motorbikes in Govindapuram, on the outskirts of Jamandlapalli village in Telangana state last month as he was on his way home from a worship service, Morning Star News reported.

The assailants have reportedly threatened the pastor twice before and accused him of fraudulent or forcible conversions.

When the attackers asked how he was able to convert the Banjara tribal people, Sevya said: "I told them, 'I only share the gospel, that we are all sinners, and this world is to come to an end some day. Only Jesus Christ can cleanse us from the sins. He was crucified for our sake, and rose again to present us eternal life. I ask them if there is life in the rocks, trees and water – why worship them?'"

The pastor noted that he first preached the Gospel in Jangi Thanda, a village in Govindapuram, at the request of a relative. He said that he was astonished when five families came to Christ, noting that it is "not possible by human strength" to separate the Banjara tribal community from idolatry.

"The five families left everything behind and have been walking in the Light since they invited Jesus Christ into their hearts. It is a miracle," he said.

Sevya said that he noticed the masked men following him on the evening of Oct. 5 after he conducted a worship service that night.

"I didn't see where they came from. They pushed me off the bike and started beating me with sticks and kicking me. My nose and ears were bleeding. I lost my consciousness," he recounted.

Doctors said that the pastor had blood clots in the cerebral area, brain coordination problems, injury to his eye and a damaged eardrum.

His wife, Banothu Anusha, said that the assailants were from Jangi Thanda, where Sevya had been evangelizing the past few months. She added that she has filed a written complaint with the police in the Mahabubabad Rural Police Station, but they have not registered a First Information Report.

Sevya said that the police promised to continue the investigation, but they offered little hope as the assailants were masked and the pastor was not able to remember most of the assault, as he had slipped into a coma.

Attacks on Christians in India have increased significantly since the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014. In the first quarter of 2017, the advocacy group Open Doors recorded 248 incidents of persecution, and by the end of June, the number grew to 410. In contrast, there were a total of 441 reported incidents in all of 2016.

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