According to a recent report, Christians are now being prosecuted for preaching about Christ in India by Hindus using blasphemy laws. The extent of the persecution is so bad that some people are saying that Hindu nationalists are trying to turn India into a Hindu version of Pakistan:
After being framed on false charges earlier this year, two Christians in eastern India recently spent a month in jail, where inmates beat them after discovering they were accused of defiling Hinduism, sources said.
Months after two Hindu extremists in Bihar state tried – and failed – to trap pastor Ajay Kumar and a Bible college student into actions that would serve as the basis for fraudulent conversion accusations, charges are still pending against the two Christians.
On March 17, the 32-year-old pastor was visiting a church member’s house in Begu Sarai District, where he leads his Assemblies of God church, when he received a call from an anonymous person at around 11 a.m.
“The caller told me that he really wanted to know about Christ and asked us to meet him at Har Har Mahadev Chowk,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News.
He and a 21-year-old student of a Bible college in Kerala state, identified only as Asharya, who was also visiting Begu Sarai, accompanied him to meet the unknown caller.
“After we waited for about 15 minutes at the chowk, two men in their 20s came on a two-wheeler, and one of them introduced himself as Neeraj Kumar,” Kumar said. “After a brief introduction, they started saying a Christian girl and Hindu boy back in their village are in love, and they need our help.”
The two men on a motorcycle then began to bombard them with questions.
“They asked me, ‘How much would it cost to convert and marry in Christianity? Tell us your price. We are ready to pay whatever it costs. Please help us,’” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “I refused. Asharya and I understood it’s a trap.”
The Christians told them that if they wanted know about Christ, then they would share the gospel, but that they don’t convert anyone. The pastor told them that they don’t do marriages and didn’t want to be involved in the matter.
“I clarified that we can’t be of any help, and that is when they became aggressive and started slapping us,” Pastor Kumar said. “Then they dragged us both by the collar to the middle of the road and started shouting, ‘Look at these people. They do conversions. These are the people who do conversions,’ and because of his shouting a crowd, of over 50 people surrounded us.”
Neeraj Kumar also called media to the area, he said.
“It was all pre-planned. The media started clicking our photos,” Pastor Kumar said. “Police arrived on the spot, but Neeraj Kumar did not stop shouting. He told the police, ‘These people carry out conversions, arrest them.’”
Police took both Christians into custody, and soon members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) arrived and pressured officers into filing a case against them, Pastor Kumar said. They were released at around 1:30 a.m. with the help of local pastors and other Christians.
Pastor Christopher Bhonsle was among those who went to the police station to help.
“Since I was also falsely charged by Hindu extremists back in 2002, I understood the situation and immediately rushed to the police station,” Pastor Bhonsle said. “The next morning, a band of Hindu extremists came with the media, demanded I come downstairs to meet them, and badgered me with questions – ‘Pastor, why are you helping the arrested Christians? Why are you involving in this?’”
The Hindu extremists began shouting, “Stop conversions,” and that they would not tolerate “foreign activities” in India, he said.
Protesting outside his church facility, they shouted, “Stop giving money and converting Hindus,” and, “We can even kill you,” he said.
The two Christians were charged with destroying, damaging or defiling a place of worship or sacred object with intent to insult religion (Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code), punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine; and with maliciously insulting religion or religious beliefs (Section 295-A), punishable by up to three years of prison and/or a fine.
With the help of attorneys, the Christians filed a petition for anticipatory bail to prevent arrest, Bob Raj, senior pastor of Assemblies of God-Patna, told Morning Star News. On Sept. 14 a lower court judge issued an order stating the case “seems to be fit for regular bail.” At the same time, police were unable to find any evidence for the allegations, so the legal team decided to pursue regular bail, Pastor Raj said.
“Since the local lawyers advised us that the court can issue a regular bail in case an arrest is made, Ajay and Asharya appeared before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on Nov. 2, and surrendered before the court of law,” he said.
The two Christians were immediately taken into judicial custody, he said.
“Unfortunately, the petition for regular bail was transferred to another judicial magistrate, who rejected it,” Raj said. “As a result, they had to spend 28 days in judicial custody.”
The first 10 days in jail were the worst, Pastor Kumar said.
“Tensions in jail were heated during the first 10 days as the inmates got to know we were charged with defiling worship places of Hindus,” he said. “We suffered there, too. They tortured us. In the middle of the night at around 12 a.m., we woke up and prayed till 3:30 a.m., we meditated on the chapters in Revelation and Psalms. We devoted our time for prayer and worship.”
They did not try to convince anyone of their innocence, he said.
“Amazingly, after 10 days of observing us pray and meditate, they understood that we are framed in a false case,” he said.
They read the parables of Jesus and Psalms with the inmates every day, he added.
“God moved their hearts – when we bowed down to pray, the inmates would break down wailing and crying,” Pastor Kumar said. “They confessed they are sinners and came to Christ. God has done wonderful works inside the prison. We were 42 members in our ward, and over 30 of them came to Christ.”
One of the newly converted inmates subsequently received bail after six years of incarceration, he said.
On Nov. 29, the two Christians’ case came up for hearing before the judge who had earlier stated it was fit for regular bail, and he ordered the Christians released, he said.
Even in the case diary submitted to the court, police could not produce any evidence to support the charges, Kameshwar Singh, an attorney representing the Christians, told Morning Star News.
“There are two options for them now,” Singh said. “Since the charges are false, they can appear before the court for the next hearings, and ultimately they will be acquitted, or they can go to the High Court in Patna to submit a petition to quash the FIR [First Information Report],” Singh said.
Pastor Kumar was able to celebrate Christmas with his wife, who is nine months pregnant, and family. His next hearing is scheduled for February.
Devesh Lal, coordinator of the Bihar Christian Leaders Fellowship, told Morning Star News that incidents of Hindu extremists attempting to entrap Christians in India are increasing at alarming rate.
“It has become a new trend of violence, where assailants approach the Christians unarmed but with a plan, frame them in false charges and put them behind the bars,” he said. “The apprehension and fear of threats and communal disturbances is very much there in the church and Christians.”
Pastor Raj agreed that such attacks are increasing.
“They don’t appear as one of great physical injury, and there is not vandalizing or destruction of structures or material, and all the assailants are very young, aged below 25,” he said. “In most of the cases, they are unarmed and their main motive is to create that psychosis of fear in the hearts of Christians. If we quantify the loss these false charges have led to in terms of money, it can be put as a huge sum, but the mental agony an accused Christian goes through cannot be quantified.”
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say. (source)
The pattern here in this story is quite fascinating, as it mirrors what Muslims have not only done in centuries past such as with the Martyrs of Cordoba, who were a group of 54 people martyred for criticizing or apostatizing from Islam during the reigns of Caliphs ‘Abd Ar-Rahman II and Muhammad I from 822 to 864. Each martyrdom inspired new martyrdoms in different years. The 10th century likewise had many martyrs in the West, thus continuing the long chain of suffering that the Church would endure. This was due to the fact that the Church in both east and west faced considerable persecution in zeal for Islam during the 9th and 10th centuries. This had been taking place since the 7th century, but now Islam had deeply rooted itself into the invaded cultures and peoples. Muslims were no longer the descendants of the Arab conquerors, but were the children of converts to Islam from the conquered peoples. The struggle had changed from combating a foreign enemy to one’s own family, friends, and neighbors. In response, many times openly false charges were brought against these Christians just as what happens in India and Pakistan today, such as with the following of the Martyrs of Cordoba:
The remains of the Martyrs of Cordoba
Feast Day: April 18th (850)
St. Perfectus was a priest in the Church of St. Acislus in Córdoba whose execution was set up by two Muslim men looking to entrap him. The men came to him and asked him to say if Jesus or Muhammad was greater. To say Jesus was greater would mean death, as it would be regarded as an attack upon Islam. However, neither could he say that Muhammad was greater because that would contradict his Catholic Faith. St. Perfectus told the men that Jesus was the true prophet and Muhammad was a false prophet because he seduced and married his dead son’s widow.48
The Muslim men originally said they would not report him for blasphemy, but a few days later they did. St. Perfectus was arrested, convicted, and arranged to be beheaded. As his last words, he cursed Muhammad and the Quran before giving thanks to God for his martyrdom on account of the Faith.
St. Isaac of Córdoba
Feast Day: June 3th (851)
St. Isaac of Córdoba was only 27 when he was martyred. He was a Mozarab Catholic who was a secretary for a judge in Caliph ‘Abd Ar-Rahman II’s government. He later left his work to become a monk at the monastery of Tábanos.49 During a visit to his former place of employment, he and the judge he worked with were talking about religion, and St. Isaac criticized Islam. That same judge immediately arrested St. Isaac and when he would not retract his statement, the judge had him tortured, decapitated, and his corpse hung on display before being burned and thrown into the Guadalquivir River.
Sts. Alodia and Nunilo
Feast Day: October 22nd (851)
Sts. Alodia and Nunilo were sisters born of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father. The father insisted upon raising the girls as Muslims and did so publicly, but their mother secretly raised them as Catholics. When the girls were nine, their father died and their mother married another Muslim. He was abusive to them and tried to force the girls to abandon their Catholic Faith and convert to Islam. When they would not, they were given over to local authorities who first placed them in a brothel to try and shame them into becoming Muslims. When they would surrender neither their dignity nor their Catholic Faith, they were beheaded as apostates.
Sts. Roderick and Salomon
Feast Day: March 13th (857)
St. Roderick was born in a Catholic family as one of three brothers, and eventually he became a priest. One of the brothers converted to Islam, and the other did not practice any religion. One day, St. Roderick went to break up a fight between his brothers and in the process he was knocked out. When he awoke, he found that his Muslim brother had told the local authorities that he had converted to Islam. He originally fled to the countryside, but was discovered by his Muslim brother and the authorities arrested him. St. Roderick maintained that he was always a Catholic and that his brother was lying, but he was told to convert to Islam or be executed. While in prison, he met St. Salomon, a Catholic who converted to Islam but returned to the Faith and was awaiting his death for apostasy. The two were beheaded together.
St. Eulogius of Córdoba
Feast Day: March 11th (859)
St. Eulogius was a priest and scholar from Córdoba. He was stationed for a time at St. Zoilus’ monastery and was educated along with the Mozarab theologian Alvarus Paulus by the famed Spanish Catholic scholar Speraindeo. He was the first Catholic to translate part of the Quran from Arabic into Latin. Additionally, he secretly converted Muslims to the Faith as well as protected apostates from Islam against the wrath of the Caliphate. He also wrote the Memoriale Sanctorum, which chronicled the lives of the Martyrs of Córdoba.
One day an apostate from Islam, St. Leocrita, came to him seeking his protection and help. He was able to help her for a while, but when his actions were discovered, he was arrested and beheaded. Interestingly, it was Alvarus Paulus who wrote St. Eulogius’ biography after his death.
Feast Day: March 15th
St. Leocritia was born to Muslim parents but converted to Catholicism after learning about it secretly from a relative. When her parents discovered this, they were enraged and wanted to kill her. She sought protection with St. Eulogius from her family. Her discovery with him also precipitated St. Eulogius’ own execution, and she was beheaded four days after he was.
St. Elias of Heilopolis
Feast Day: February 1st
In addition to the Martyrs of Cordoba, there is also the case of St. Elias of Heliopolis. When he was 12, he father apprenticed him to a Muslim carpenter who was also an apostate Christian. Seeing that he had a degree of authority over the boy, the carpenter slowly exhorted St. Elias to convert to Islam. However, he did not convert.
One day, St. Elias’ employer asked him to attend a Muslim feast where there was much dancing and eating. As was stipulated in the Pact of ‘Umar, Christians were required to wear certain articles of clothing in order to distinguish them from the Muslims. One of these was the zunar, a brightly colored belt. Publicly removing this belt was regarded during this time as a sign of conversion to Islam, since only Muslims did not have to wear it. The employer, still seeking to convert St. Elias to Islam, told the boy that he should remove his belt because it would loosen his clothes so he could dance better. This was done with the secret intention of saying that the boy removed it because he converted to Islam. Because St. Elias was still a boy and did not understand this devious trick, he removed the belt. When he tried to put it back on later, the employer accused him of converting to Islam by its removal and then apostatizing from Islam, which carries the death penalty.
After a long argument with St. Elias’ family, the employer released him to his family and promised not to press charges of apostasy. For eight years, St. Elias worked as a carpenter in his hometown of Baalbek until one day, his former employer wanted to re-hire him, at which St. Elias kindly refused. The enraged employer then went to the local authorities and accused St. Elias of apostasy based on the incident which happened eight years earlier and sought to have him punished in revenge. Despite his claims that he never apostatized and was tricked into removing his zunar, he was arrested and sent before a judge who would determine his fate.
The judge presiding over the case was a famous Muslim judge name Layth ibn Sa’d ibn ‘Abd Ar-Rahman. Before St. Elias was brought to trial, he had a vision of the martyrdom he would suffer. He later recounted this vision to Layth when he was told to convert to Islam or die, saying that:
“I saw all these things of which you speak in a night vision. Truly, I was decapitated, and crucified, and burned, and I have prepared myself to suffer all this willingly so that I might sit in the bridal chamber and the chambers may be interwoven with flowers and that I may be crowned with unsullied wreaths. Therefore, do what you command and begin whence you will.”
Layth condemned St. Elias to death, where he suffered the terrible passion he saw in his vision. He was severely beaten by a mob of enraged Muslims that stepped, kicked, and spat upon him. In prison, he was beaten daily and became sick with dysentery. Finally, since St. Elias would not give up his Catholic Faith, Layth ordered his head cut off, and his corpse crucified and put on public display. Finally, Layth ordered his corpse taken down, chopped into pieces, and catapulted into the Chebar River in order that, as Layth said, “So that there will be no remembrance of you on the Earth!” However, the opposite happened. People were able to recover parts of St. Elias’ body, and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.
St. Bacchus Dahhat
Feast Day: December 15th
There is also the case of St. Bacchus Dahhat, who was born to a Palestinian Arab family. He eventually became a monk at the monastery of St. Sabas. One day, his family unbeknownst to him converted to Islam. When he returned home and found what happened, he immediately began to evangelize his brothers. All of them returned to the Catholic Faith except for one, who reported him to the authorities. St. Bacchus was then arrested and beheaded around the year 787.
Sts. Bernard, Grace, and Maria of Alcira
Feast Day: August 21st
Sts. Bernard, Grace, and Maria were born Ahmed, Zaida, and Zoraya to the ta’ifa governor of the city of Carlet near Valencia, Spain. St. Bernard was born in the year 1135 as the second of the four children. The birthdates of his two younger sisters are not known.
When Ahmed was 21 years old in 1156, he was sent as ambassador to try and secure the release of a group of Muslim war prisoners. He failed in his mission, and while returning home, he stopped at the Cistercian monastery of St. Mary of Poblet. While at the monastery, he had a miraculous conversion and decided not to return home. He renounced Islam and became a Cistercian monk, taking the name Bernard.
St. Bernard stayed at the monastery for 25 years until 1181, when he decided to visit his siblings. While visiting, he converted his sisters Zaida and Zoraya to the Catholic Faith, and had them baptized with the names Grace and Maria. However his elder brother, Mansur, became angry with him and had his brother and sisters arrested for apostasy. When the three refused to apostatize from the Faith, they were executed.
Bl. Anthony Neyrot
Feast Day: May 10th
To take another approach, there is also the case of Bl. Anthony Neyrot, a Dominican monk captured by a Tunisian slave raiding ship in 1458 who converted to Islam to save his own life and even began to live as a Muslim and married a Muslim woman. However, one night in late 1459, he had a vision of his old teacher from Italy, St. Antoninus of Florence. He conversed with Bl. Anthony, and told him that unless he repented of his apostasy, Bl. Anthony’s soul would be damned.
After the vision, Bl. Anthony resolved to follow his teacher’s warning. He first secretly made contact with a Dominican priest, who heard his confession. After this, he sent his wife back to her family. On Holy Thursday, 1460, Bl. Anthony put on his old Dominican habit that he had since packed away and went before the Caliph. He renounced Islam, and proclaimed that he had returned to the Catholic Faith and his life as a Dominican.
The Caliph’s superficial and conditional friendship with Bl. Anthony was immediately exposed. In a fit of rage, the Caliph ordered him to renounce the Catholic Faith. When Bl. Anthony refused, he had him summarily stoned to death. As Bl. Anthony was being stoned, he dropped to his knees and prayed that he would have the strength to remain faithful to his death, which he was.
Bl. Archbishop Ignatius Maloyan and 447 Companions
Feast Day: June 11th
In recent times, echoing the genocidal words and desires of the Hindu nationalists, it is good to recall that the same language they are using is echoed in those of the Turkish calls to murder Christians, such as that with Bl. Archbishop Maloyan.
Bl. Archbishop Ignatius Maloyan was born in Mardin, Turkey to an Armenian Catholic family in 1869. He became a priest in 1904, and was made a bishop in 1911. At the time, the Ottoman Empire was on the eve of the Armenian Genocide that would murder over a million people and exterminate Christianity from Anatolia.
When the Genocide began on April 24th, 1915, Mardin was one of the first towns attacked because of its large Christian population. Dr. Mehmet Reshid, the Ottoman governor of Diyarbakir Province in which Mardin was located, oversaw the Genocide’s first stages. When he was asked why he persecuted the Christians in an interview, he said that the Christians were “microbes” and that as a doctor, it was his job “to kill microbes.”
Dr. Reshid charged Mamduh Beğ, Chief of Police for Mardin, with executing his orders in the city. On June 9th, 1915, he rounded up 447 Armenian Catholics and told them to convert to Islam or die.3 Bl. Bishop Maloyan urged them to stand strong in their Faith, and he told Mamduh that he and his fellow Catholics were prepared to suffer for Christ.
Mamduh forced Bl. Bishop Maloyan and his followers to march to their death. Despite being tired, Bl. Bishop Maloyan managed to say mass and even distribute communion. Following the mass, Mamduh forced them to walk for several more hours to their mass grave. He gave them one last chance to convert to Islam or die. Fortunately, not a single person converted.
Mamduh was particularly angry at Bl. Bishop Maloyan, so he forced him to watch the execution of all 447 before his death. Bl. Bishop Maloyan was then subjected to a series of slow and heinous tortures. When he was near death, Mamduh gave him one last chance to convert to Islam. Bl. Bishop Maloyan replied “Into Your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.” In a fit of rage, Mamduh summarily shot him.
Bl. Bishop Maloyan is the first beatified Catholic who was murdered in the Armenian Genocide.
Bl. Mariam Baouardy
Feast Day: August 25th
There is also the case of Bl. Mariam Baouardy, born in I’bilin, Israel to devout Melkite Catholic parents. Her parents both died when she was two, and she was left to the care of her extended family, as was her only surviving brother, Boulos.
When Bl. Mariam was 13, she was living with her uncle in Alexandria, Egypt. He wanted to marry her off without her consent, but she rejected. He became very angry with her and, after berating and beating her, forced her to be his servant girl. Her brother Boulos was living with other family, and she wrote a letter asking him to visit. She gave the letter to one of her uncle’s Muslim servants to deliver, who secretly read it and deceitfully asked Bl. Mariam to tell her about her problems, as he was romantically interested in her. After listening to her story, he suggested that she convert to Islam in order to escape. She realized his intentions, and responded to him by saying:
“Muslim? No, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one.”
At this, the Muslim servant violently attacked Bl. Mariam and, drawing his sword, slit her throat. The wound was so deep that while her head was still attached to her body, she was decapitated and died. He dumped her body in an alley. The day was September 8th, 1858, the Birthday of the Virgin Mary.
However, while Bl. Mariam was dead, she saw herself being picked up by the Blessed Mother in the presence of a host of angels and Jesus. Her throat was miraculously stitched back
together, and Our Lady brought her to the Franciscan church of St. Catherine before she disappeared.
Bl. Mariam consecrated her life to the Blessed Virgin on that day, and began to seek a vocation as a religious sister. She eventually entered the Carmelite Order with the name Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. She endured many sufferings, and finally died on August 27, 1878 at 33 years old uttering “My Jesus, my Mercy” as she died.
All of these saints have in common that they were betrayed by friends, family and other people they trusted to look after their interests. They are a testament throughout history that betrayal is real, and that being a Christian does not exempt one from suffering or from being betrayed. It is the reason why Christians are advised to be as innocent as doves but as cunning as wolves, and that the forces that a Christian struggles against are the real powers of evil.
What Christians in the Muslim and pagan worlds are going through today is nothing abnormal, but it is just a continuation of what has always happened. However, it is for Christians to remember this and to persist in faith, never giving up and knowing that, in the words of the book of Ecclesiastes, “nothing is new under the sun.”