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India

Driven out Indian Christians return, threat lingers

Christians live together in a temporary shelter as they lack the confidence to stay in their damaged homes

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Driven out Indian Christians return, threat lingers

Tribal people attack the house of a Christian family in a village in India's Chhattisgarh state for refusing to abandon the Christian faith on Sept. 22. Some 100 Christians who fled three villages following the attack have returned after a court ordered in their favor. (Photo supplied) 

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Some 100 Christians have returned to their villages in India's Chhattisgarh state following a court order, almost two months after they were attacked and driven out of their homes.

The state High Court in Bilaspur last week ordered the Kondagaon district administration to facilitate the safe return of the displaced Christians from three villages and to ensure their protection.

"We have returned to our villages as the court has ordered our protection," Shiv Ram, one of the petitioners to the court, told UCA News on Nov. 17.

Ram said all 66 Christians from 10 families driven out of his Kakrabeda village have returned to the village. Some 30 Christians from six families, who fled from two other villages, also have returned, he said.

A mob of suspected Hindu right-wing activists attacked 16 houses in three villages in the state's Bastar region on Sept. 22 and 23. The attack came after Christians refused a demand to abandon their faith in Jesus Christ.

They also attacked Christians, including women and children, in front of the police, forcing them to escape to a nearby forest to save their lives.

Following the Nov. 8 court order, the administration has set up a police check post and posted 12 police officers to ensure the Christians' safety.

"But we don't feel safe and are still worried about our lives," Ram said. All 66 people "cook, eat and live together" in a temporary shelter as their houses were destroyed.

Ram said they were attacked in front of the police. "No one came to our rescue at the time," he said, expressing a lack of confidence in police assurances.

The other villagers also ostracize them for accepting Christ and abandoning traditional beliefs.

"We have not converted to Christianity as was being alleged. We are still following the indigenous lifestyle. The only difference is that we began to change our hearts to trust in Jesus Christ," Ram explained.

"A change of heart is different from religious conversion. We used to attend our traditional practices and contributed money for traditional festivals, but still we are attacked."

Ram said tribal villagers attacked the Christians instigated by Hindu activists who oppose tribal people becoming Christians. "But we are not going to change our trust in Jesus," he asserted.

He also said the government had promised compensation for the damage to houses and household articles.

"The officials visited our homes and collected details of the damage but we are not sure when they will compensate us," Ram said.

Pastor Moses Logan said the struggle for justice would continue. They have petitioned the state's chief minister and other top government officials seeking justice for the attacked Christians, he told UCA News on Nov. 17.

"We will continue our fight until the culprits are punished and the Christians compensated fully," said Pastor Logan, who is also president of the Chhattisgarh State Christian Welfare Society.

Chhattisgarh has become the third most dangerous state for Christians in India after Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, according to Persecution Relief in its latest report on persecution against Christians in India.

According to the report, in the first nine months of 2020, the state recorded 39 incidents of persecution, up from 21 reported in the previous year.

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