South Asia

The cost of faith: Indian Christian pays with life

A Christian and his family in Jharkhand were brutally tortured for their faith by the local villagers resulting in the death of one member of the family.

To add to the horror and trauma the family faced, villagers would not allow the son to bury his father after his death. They insisted on a agreement that the entire family had to return to their ancestral faith.

Bartu Urawn, 50, a resident of village Kubuaa, district Palamu, died on 20 January 2017, after suffering brutality for about three years in his home village.

Bartu and his family followed the indigenous religion of the Tribal population – Sarna Dharam meaning “Religion of the Holy Woods”.

“We lived in utter poverty and did not have food for a single meal. There were series of young deaths in our family which broke us completely,” said Beneswar Urawn, son of Bartu Urawn while speaking to Global Christian News.

“We were completely broken as a family after we lost my elder sister, elder brother and younger brother one after the other. It was then the gospel was preached in our village,” added Beneswar.

Ten years ago, Urawn family along with nine other families started to follow Christ.

Gradually the villagers noticed that the lives of the 10 families, including the Urawns had begun to improve and they began to persecute all the ten families.

“We had food to eat, health in our bodies and above all peace in our heart,” said Beneswar.

The villagers tried every way they could to threaten and force these families to return to their ‘Sarna religion’.

After daily threats and boycott that these handful of Christian community faced, seven families could not stand the immense discrimination and harassment and returned to their previous faith.

The Christian Community of village Kubuaa in Jharkhand

The villagers now focused on the Urawn family and they came together as a mob and assaulted Bartu, his wife, Beneswar, Beneswar’s wife and Beneswar’s younger brother and locked them inside their own house for several hours. They deliberately soiled and polluted the area from which the family fetched their drinking water.

One day the villagers got together and caught hold of Bartu and made him attend their worship, during which they sacrificed an animal. They forced the sacrifice down his throat and then made him drink fermented liquor.

“They told my father that now the demons will not let him live,” disclosed Beneswar.

When it became clear that the Urawn’s faith did not waver in spite of threats, assault and being ostracised, the villagers tied Bartu and his wife’s hands behind their back and immersed them in a pond with only their heads above water for 17 hours.

“It was last year in winter when the cruel villagers put my mother and father in cold water at 5 in the evening till 10 next day morning. I was away and on my return, they made me sit outside the pond and watch my parents die,” said Beneswar.

“All throughout the night they were inside the cold water shivering and I along with 15-20 villagers were witness to the brutality. The villagers kept asking my father, if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold? He reiterated every time, ‘I will not deny Christ….I will continue to believe till my last breath’,” he added.

Next morning after pulling them out, they hit Bartu and his wife and pressured them once again to “stop being a fool”.

Bartu and his wife fell seriously ill after being in the water for 17 hours. While Bartu’s wife recovered with time, Bartu suffered a paralytic attack and could not move.

“My father suffered a second attack and his body became stiff, he could not move his hands and legs and ultimately died on 20 January,” said Beneswar.

The villagers surrounded Bartu’s dead body and did not let Beneswar bury him. “I told the villagers that I will bury him in my own personal land, but they stood with wooden sticks to attack, if I tried,” added Beneswar.

Eventually, Beneswar along with four Christians walked with the dead body of his father for 10 kilometres on 21 January until he could perform his last rites on government land.

After they returned from the funeral, the villagers demanded that Bartu’s wife should serve food to the entire village according to Sarna rituals. Beneswar refused to abide by those traditions insisting that as Christians they would hold a prayer meeting.

“The villagers said that they will kill us just like they killed my father,” said Beneswar.

The Urawn family fled for their lives and took refuge in a village 35 kilometres away. They approached the police.

“The police did nothing about the murder of my father calling it a ‘natural death’ but invited the villagers on 2 February for ‘peace talks’ and instructed them to not trouble us further, as faith is our personal matter and we are free to believe whom we want to,” revealed Beneswar.

The Urawn family is back home and continue to move on in their faith amidst trials.

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.