The pastor and some of the male members of a house church in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, were attacked and beaten as they worshipped last Sunday (14 May 2017)
Pastor John E Dawson, a retired government official, Asha Prakash and his son Arun Prakash and three other men sustained internal injuries in the assault.
The attack took place around 10am in the morning after the regular worship service began and the first song was being sung.
“Two strangers around 19 and 17-year-old came and joined the service. Soon I noticed the older youth texting message to someone. Minutes later a man barged into the worship, disrupting the service, shouting at the boys and criticising the Christians of forceful conversion. The boys left with the man. I sent Arun Prakash, the son of the owner of the house to enquire about the matter. When Arun approached them, who were waiting outside the door of the house, they slapped Arun hard on his face,” said Dawson in an interview with Global Christian News.
The fellowship – Shechem House of Worship runs in the house of Asha Prakash, also a lay preacher for the past 5 years with about 40 regular worshippers besides children.
Soon after Arun was slapped, a mob of about 10 men, all carrying strong wooden sticks slammed open the house door and started to assault the men in the congregation.
“They left the women and children unhurt and hit all the males present with the ‘lattis’ (wooden sticks) so hard that we could barely walk. While hitting, they abused us of carrying out forceful conversion.
“They kicked the table and threw the holy sacrament on the floor. The assault went on for 3-5 minutes and then these men absconded,” added Dawson.
There was a jeep which was parked outside the colony, which they used for fleeing the area.
What concerned Dawson the most was the health of Asha Prakash, the owner of the house, who had recently undergone a ‘heart surgery’ (By-pass) and after the assault he began to vomit.
The Hindu neighbours of the Prakash family attempted to come to the rescue but fled when they saw the leader of the attackers with a hand gun. They also said that the Hindu extremists carried a big black bag filled with wooden sticks.
The police were immediately informed lf the attacks.
Dawson told Global Christian News that a week before last a middle-aged man and a young boy in his early twenties had come to attend the worship service. While the man left the service soon, the boy stayed till the end. He spoke to a youth member of the fellowship, enquiring if he will be given a job or monetary assistance if he chooses to become a Christian?
“The boy clearly refused saying that, ‘We do not do any of these things…’,” said Dawson.
Dawson said that in his 40-years of involvement in ministry, he has not seen such a thing happen. “The worship service was always open for everybody and anybody until now. But from now on, it will not be so. We will not let strangers walk into our worship service, disrupt the holy gathering and risk the lives of worshippers with their violent attacks,” he concluded.
This attack took place after the assurance of the newly sworn-in Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Yogi Adityanath last month. The CM spoke in response to the concerns of the Christian community regarding the rising incidents of violence against the minority Christian community in the biggest Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The CM assured church leaders that there would be justice against law breakers. He asked them to continue their services to the poor and the needy in various fields, including education, and practice their faith without fear.