South Asia

Pastor in hiding after his church was forced to shut

Covered with an iron shed a Church structure stands desolate for the past three months. This independent Church, which once saw gatherings of thousands of worshippers has been forced to shut down by the local Police personnel’s.

The church in the village of Sitaram Purwa in the Sitapur District of Uttar Pradesh, was located on land donated by a church member. During special meetings and conventions the church saw attendances around 5000-strong.

Pastor Rameshwar Mishra, 41, a Hindu-Brahmin accepted Christ in the year 2009. Together with Pastor Mahesh he

Pastor Rameshwar Mishra in the Black Shirt

had arranged for a special meeting to be held on 14 September 2016 in the Church area.

“I went and took special permission from the court to conduct this meeting on a large scale. The court gave me written permission, and then I went to the Reusa police station to inform them of the court’s permission, when the policeman on duty not only argued with me concerning the meeting, but also started to abuse me with filthy language for leaving my Hindu faith and becoming a Christian.

“He got so furious that he ordered me to be put behind bars. After presenting all my personal, Church and baptism documents, they let me go but with warning of not evangelizing,” said Pastor Rameshwar Mishra to Global Christian News.

“The Lord spoke to me and asked me to conduct the scheduled meeting and that I would be arrested and then released the next day,” said Mishra. Despite the threats, Mishra went ahead and conducted the meeting. “I had invited a team of Pastors to speaker from Maharashtra; 3,500 people had come for this meeting,” claimed Mishra.

“The Church is surrounded by the lands of the high caste ‘Thakur’. A Hindu extremist called Babblu called up the police and informed them of the meeting. 4 policemen arrived and started to manhandle the crowd looking for me. Finding me they started to beat me brutally.

“Soon a bus full of police force arrived at the location. They were 100 – 150 policemen. They joined the assault and pushed and pulled me, hit me with their hands, legs and fists. During the ordeal, all my clothes tore and they continued to beat me naked. Then I was taken to the Reusa Police Station where again I was mistreated with abusive language. The police officer in-charge threatened me to keep me on 14-days remand and beat me till the point I worship Hindu gods and goddesses,” Mishra took a strong stand before the policeman and said, “Even if you kill me, I will not leave Christ,” he said.

Mishra was presented before the court and the court set him free after levying a fine of Rupees 500 on him.

Four days later, on 18 December, Mishra filed a counter case against the police personnel’s for the brutality he faced for being a Christian.

Mishra endured serious internal injuries and was on medication for three weeks.

Policemen from the Reusa Police Station time and again approached Pastor Mahesh and asked him to persuade Mishra to get an out-of-court settlement (compromise) with the police. But Mishra refused.

At this the police personnel asked Mahesh to convey their threats to Mishra and filed a false case against Mahesh under the ‘Goonda Act’ (Goonda is a term for a hired thug or a goon).

Mishra had to flee the village and take shelter in a hiding. “I have started to minister people here at this new place but I feel bad for my Church-congregation who do not have a Church now. They worship in their homes. The fear still prevails in the area and nothing has materialized from the court-case yet,” concluded Mishra.

The village Sitaram Purwa is 97 kms. from the State capital Lucknow. Uttar Pradesh alone records the highest number of incidents of persecution against Christians. There are about 40 recorded incidents in the year 2016.