Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) said that members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) severely injured three pastors in an attack on Saturday, September 8. The attack took place under the close watch of local policemen in Premnagar, located in the Barely District of India’s Uttar Pradesh State, where Christians were holding a two-day spiritual retreat. Pastor Ashok Benjamin, Pastor Vijay Masih, and Pastor Shivcharan were among those injured in the assault, sustaining wounds to their heads, hands, and lower backs.
Local sources told ICC that a mob of 50 radicals under the leadership of Pawan Arora, the district chief of the VHP, and a few policemen attacked a hall where approximately 25 Christians were meeting for a two-day spiritual retreat. While hurling verbal insults at the Christians, the mob savagely beat the three pastors who were leading the retreat.
“All of this happened in the presence of the police,” Pastor Masih, a 36-year-old pastor who was gravely injured in the attack, told ICC. “The police did not come to our rescue. Rather, they joined the mob in accusing us of doing forcible conversions.”
“I have terrible pain in the lower end of my spinal cord,” Pastor Masih continued. “The whole area is swollen as they kicked me there with force. Now, I am unable to walk.”
“Over a dozen people hit me with stones on my head, kicked me, and punched me,” Masih said, describing the attack. “I was in shock and did not know what to do. Their intention was to kill us, but God saved us from the mouth of death.”
“They want to kill my husband because he is a pastor and preaches about Jesus,” Sandra Ashok, Pastor Ashok Benjamin’s wife, told ICC. “My husband received multiple fractures to the nose and [a] clot in the eye. They also hit him on the head. He was bleeding heavily from his nose and also his head.”
After the attack, Pastor Benjamin was able to stand witness in the police station amid a large crowd. As he reported the attack, still covered in his own blood, the police asked him what he was doing at the retreat.
“Our lives are in danger with the negative publicity we receive, claiming we do forcible conversions,” Pastor Masih explained. “Still, I will not stop preaching Jesus.”
Although there was pressure from VHP members, the police did not file forced conversion charges against the three injured pastors. Instead, the police forced the Christians and radicals to agree to a compromise.
Two other anti-Christian attacks led by Hindu radicals took place in Uttar Pradesh in the past week. On September 2, police arrested pastors in Faizabad after they were falsely accused of forced conversions. The police kept the pastors in police custody for more than five hours, but later released them due to a lack of evidence.