South Asia

Disabled Indian pastor and healer arrested and held for eight days

An Indian pastor and wheelchair user, Pastor Ageshwar Verma, 26, is the latest Indian Christian to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and injustice because of his faith.

Ageshwar Verma on 1 February 2017 outside the jail – photo courtesy Evangelical Fellowship of India

The minister from the village of Gorah in Chhattisgarh, only came to faith some 20 months ago. He was arrested by police under local laws which ban ‘witchcraft’.

“He was arrested on purpose just one day before the National Holiday, the Republic Day, and Ageshwar will not be able to secure bail,” said a spokesperson for the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

Ageshwar was sent to the Bemetara jail and held for eight days until 1 February.

Born in a Hindu family, Ageshwar suffered waist-down paralysis when he fell from a five-story under-construction building on October 2014, where he worked as a mason and was unable to walk again. His wife abandoned him due to his disability. This sudden change in life caused depression in him and Ageshwar attempted suicide thrice.

“God had different plans in stored for me…my suicide attempts always fell unsuccessful,” said Pastor Ageshwar Verma in an interview with Global Christian News after his release from jail.

Ageshwar received a phone call, which he says was of a man who identified himself as Mahesh. “I had never known this person before and how did he get my number still remains a mystery to me.

“The moment I received the call, the voice on the other end said that Jesus loves me and that He cares for me,” said Ageshwar. The voice on the other end of the phone asked him to go to a Church. Surprised and shocked, Ageshwar attended a church and heard about Jesus for the first time. Later Ageshwar went to Bilaspur (about 100 kms. away) to Pastor Ajit Daniel – a Pastor of Assemblies of God Church – where he stayed for a year.

Ageshwar who was expecting strong opposition from his father and brother’s family for becoming a follower of Christ, was amazed at God’s work. “After spending a year in Bilaspur, I returned to my village and shared about my new-found faith with my family. I left once again for Bilaspur to receive baptism and on my return I found that my elder brother Sanjay Verma, his wife, my father Puniram Verma and my mother had all become followers of Christ.

“We started to meet and pray together every day,” added Ageshwar.

Soon Ageshwar started to tell people around him, of the saving grace of Christ.

In the span of eight months, Ageshwar today has a congregation of about 10,000 people gathering every Thursday and Sunday for worship. Ageshwar sits on his wheel-chair and preaches to this crowd that comes from all the surrounding villages.

“As the crowd is huge, I have divided the crowd into two parts and have requested them to come on any one day in a week and not repeat themselves on the other. At any given day, I have not less than 4000 people to hear God’s word,” said Ageshwar.

Local Hindu extremists in the village got very jealous of the popularity and the attention Ageshwar was gaining, “Healing were taking place in these services. People brought their sick to be prayed and deaf could hear, born lame could walk, and several others were healed,” claimed Ageshwar.

After Ageshwar’s arrest on 25 January, he was kept in the police lock-up for more than a day. His bail application was rejected by the lower court. He then approached the sessions court where he was finally granted bail on the eighth day after furnishing a bond of 10,0000 Rupees and after depositing 10,000 Rupees in cash.

Excited about his stay in the jail Ageshwar told Global Christian News today (2 February) that those eight days were “blessed days”. He disclosed how the jail staff and the high officials favored him and he not only shared the saving grace of Jesus with fellow prisoners but also started a prayer fellowship inside the jail. He said, “Indeed, ‘….we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV)’.”

He disclosed that for about 8 meetings before his arrest, policemen and the Hindu extremists were not letting people come to worship. “They surround the area carrying wooden sticks in their hands every Thursday and Sunday and blocked the entrance to the worship place,” said Ageshwar. He also revealed that, “Today being a Thursday, policemen and Hindu extremists blocked the entrance and threatened all who wanted to come for the meeting. People were made to flee the place to avoid being beaten by them.”