13 March 2024

Christians in shock after 200-strong mob attacks church in Telangana State, India

A mob of 200 people attacked a church and injured 20+ Christians over a road dispute in Telangana, India

A violent mob attacked a church in Telangana after Christians protested demolishing their church (illustrative image)

At least 22 Christians in India injured after a 200-strong mob attacked a church are still in shock after their ordeal. Two children were among those injured in the mob violence in the southern state of Telangana. The violence occurred over a land dispute, in which attackers shouted, “Jai Shri Ram”, meaning ‘Hail Lord Ram’, – a chant which has become a hallmark of Hindu nationalists.

“The Christians have not recovered from their shock,” shares Nitish*, a local believer who witnessed the attack. “The injured victims are recovering while others are afraid of what is going to happen next.”

Attack over road dispute

The clash started when believers at the church were told that their building would be demolished for a road expansion. Tensions had arisen after a group of villagers demanded the road to be widened eight feet into the compound of the Methodist Church in the Janwada village area of Rangareddy district. The Christians protested, and that’s when things turned violent.

"Even children and women suffered injuries. It was so painful to see." Nitish, witness to the attack

“The argument became strong, and suddenly around 200 people barged into the church with hockey sticks, stones and wooden sticks,” shares Nitish. “When the believers tried to stop them, they beat them mercilessly and broke everything that was inside the church.

“Even children and women suffered injuries, and some men required 10 to 18 stitches to cover the injuries they sustained. It was so painful to see their situation.”

He adds, “The church believers are from poor backgrounds, and most of them are uneducated. They were not prepared or never expected such persecution.”

Christians singled out for persecution

“The attack on believers shows persecution,” says Priya Sharma*, a local Open Doors partner. “There are various other religious worship places along the road, and they are not demolished; why should a church be vandalised and demolished for road widening?”

"The attack on believers shows persecution." Priya, Open Doors partner

She adds: “The church has been situated for a few decades in that place. If the church protested against road widening, the authorities could have taken steps to address the issue amicably.”

Nitish believes that persecutors were looking for an opportunity to attack the community. He says, “I am sure this is a pre-planned attack, and they used the issue of road widening just as a reason. The local people were influenced by political parties and religious extremists.”

Believers forced to sign documents in attackers’ favour

When the police intervened, the ordeal wasn’t over for the believers. Despite being the victims of the violence, several members of the church were arrested alongside the attackers.

“The believers did not do any harm but still the police arrested five believers along with others,” says Nitish. “When we filed a case against the attackers, they filed a counter case on 26 believers for attempt to murder.

“The imprisoned believers were terrified and forced to sign some documents in favour of the attackers. So, the attackers got bail and were released from prison immediately, whereas the believers were released on bail only two weeks later.”

“Terrified of the situation”

Open Doors local partners recently returned to encourage and pray with the vulnerable community, and spoke with Nitish to see how the congregation were feeling after the attack. “The believers have not come out of this shock yet,” he says. “The injured believers are recovering while others are afraid of what is going to happen next.

"I am encouraged to know that God’s people are there to support us." Nitish

“Last Sunday, when I went to the service, I could see only a few women in the church. There was no single man, as they were terrified of the situation. Most of the men have shifted to their relatives’ houses in other villages.”

He was grateful to Open Doors partners for coming alongside the congregation: “I am very happy to meet people like you. I am encouraged to know that God’s people are there to support us in this crisis.”

Increase in church attacks

“There is an alarming increase in church attacks across India,” says Priya Sharma. “Churches are being attacked, vandalised, destroyed and closed. Churches are being labelled as places of [forced] conversion or as illegal constructions. In the previous years, hundreds of churches have been closed and believers are finding it difficult to gather and worship freely.”

Though the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians and other religious minorities are being increasingly persecuted in some parts of the country, and India is currently number 11 on the World Watch List.

"It is all by your prayers that we are able to handle this situation." Nitish

Hindu extremists target believers through various means, and this latest example demonstrates how police and other authorities often side with the persecutors. Other recent examples of persecution and pressure include a bill banning prayer for healing in Assam, churches being forced to remove Christian symbols in the same state, and heavier punishments for ‘forced conversion’ in Chhattisgarh State.

Please keep praying for this congregation and for other vulnerable believers. As Nitish says, “It is all by your prayers that we are able to handle this situation now. Please continue to pray for us.”

*Names changed for security reasons 

Please pray
  • For the injured and traumatised to heal from this violence
  • That the right to religious freedom for all religious minorities would be recognised in India
  • For local Open Doors partners to have wisdom as they serve the persecuted Indian church.
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