Four Christian families in the Eastern Indian state of Jharkhand are facing tremendous pressure from the villagers to leave their Christian faith and ‘return’ to the Hindu faith.
The four families are the only Christians in the entire village of Ganaloya. They became Christians in 2010 and this week opposition in their village came to a head. In a village meeting they summoned the four families and demanded that they return to the Hindu faith.
“They have been given time till Thursday (27 April) to respond else they will be expelled from the village for life time,” said Sunil Kumar Mundu the Secretary of the Pentecostal Church of God in an interview with Global Christian News.
The head of the four families are Karmu Pahan, Sukhu Lora, Lepa Munda, Pyari Mundain (Woman). These families had converted from
the Sarna (tribe) faith after each family had a history of prolonged illness.
“Sukhu Lohara was at the verge of dying, before he had heard of the Christian faith and after he started to believe, he was completely healed,” said Mundu.
“These families have taken a firm stand, of not returning back to their previous faith in spite of threats from the villagers,” added Mundu.
These four families are regular worshipper at the Pentecostal Church of God in a neighbouring village Goratoli.
Mundu along with 30 to 40 Christians from the area approached the local police on 24 April and were told that ‘peace talks’ would be led by the police.
“We don’t want to file a formal report against the villagers, as they are in huge majority. The police will arrest the leaders of the village and then the entire village will pressurize the four families and persecute them in every possible way. We do not intend to develop enmity. We have requested the police in-charge to intervene and make the villagers understand our ‘freedom of choice’ given by our constitution,” said Mundu.
What was shocking for Mundu was that the church congregation had never faced such extreme threats and persecution since their Church was established.
“Our church has been running from 2000 and all of them are Sarna believers. We have not heard of such a thing before,” he said.
Mundu said that the concept of ‘Ghar Vapsi’ or ‘Returning Home’ is associated with right-wing Hindu groups. But these ‘Sarna’ Christians will return to the traditional Sarna faith and not the Hindu faith. Sarna Dharam is a traditional Indian nature religion and its adherents have been demanding recognition from the Indian government for some years. Mundu said that it was a Hindu who was behind these demands rather than the head of the Sarna community.
“The Sarna people have been added into the government records as Hindus and not as Sarna when recording their religious designation. And this is false. The Sarna people have no idea about this as they are ignorant,” said Mundu.
Concerned for the fate of these Christians, as they approach 27 April, Mundu requests for prayers for these handful but strong families.
Among the major tribes, 56.6 per cent profess Sarna Dharam, Hindu tribes constitute 39.8 per cent, Christian tribes are 14.5 per cent and less than half a per cent (0.4 per cent) are Muslims.