Christians in India flee village after death threats to convert or die

Christians in a tribal village in India had to flee their homes after allegedly receiving threats from Hindus that they would be killed if they didn't convert.

People watch a religion conversion ceremony, where devotees are converted from Christianity to Hinduism, at Hasayan town in Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014. | REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

According to UCA News, six Christian families, composed of 37 members, fled from the Katodi village in the Kanker district, Chhattisgarh state in late April, days after a village meeting was held where the Hindu villagers demanded that they give up their Christians faith.

"When they refused, they were beaten," pastor Moses Annel told UCA News. "Six of them suffered internal injuries and are still undergoing treatment in a government hospital."

The Christians complained to authorities, and district officials intervened. The Hindu villagers said that would not harm the Christians, but four days later, on April 29, their homes were demolished and they were not allowed to get water from the village's water source. According to the report, the villagers also threatened to kill them if the the police complaint is not removed. The Christians fled, journeying 70 kilometers to a hilltop forest.

Police inspector D.P. Shrivastava reportedly said that the conflict that arose on April 25 was due to a financial issue and not a religious one, as the Christians allegedly did not want to contribute money for a temple festival.

"It should not be seen as a religious issue," he said, as quoted by UCA News. "Both parties were tribal people and it was dispute over a donation and it was settled."

He is said to not have been aware that the families fled on April 29.

The incident, it appears, is not the first one. The report says that Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, revealed that there have been at least 20 cases of Christians having been attacked this year, although the Evangelical Fellowship of India recorded only four verified cases of hate crimes against Christians. Open Doors has reported last year of a church in Chhattisgarh having been attacked, allegedly by Hindi extremists.

According to the UCA News report, police have allegedly become indifferent to attacks on Christians and is said to support violence on religious minorities. The situation of Christians have reportedly gotten worse since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power in 2014. Modi is the leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

"Our life has become miserable," said Father Sebastian Poomattam, vicar general of Raipur Archdiocese, according to the article. "We see a sudden rise in the attacks against Christians in the past couple of years. These are all organized attacks."