Christians in Tamil Nadu, India, have rejected an official police report that declares a slain pastor’s death “suicide” and and have taken to the streets in protest.
Following unrelenting death threats by anti-Christian radicals in the region, Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy was discovered hanging in a local church. Despite ongoing threats and obvious indications that the pastor had been brutally beaten, local authorities appear willing to ignore the obvious signs of a wrongful death, according to British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).
The BPCA, which called the man of God an “independent” Christian with “Pentecostal” leanings, has brought to light several eye-witness accounts from members of Pastor Gideon’s flock.
“His body was later hung up to be found by parishioners, in the killers’ attempt to remove a prominent pastor and terrify his parishioners,” an eye-witness reportedly said.
The congregation member reportedly said the body exhibited pronounced “bruises and welts.” Such indications of a struggle or torture are entirely inconsistent with a hanging suicide. Local police have apparently ignored these basic forensic indicators.
“Not a single Sunday service in the past six months passed off peacefully without disturbance,” fellow Pastor Immanuel Prabhakaran reportedly told Catholic media outlet UCA News. He said the church had endured repeated instances of vandalism, and Pastor Gideon’s death threats claimed that his Christian preaching was “polluting” the region.
India’s Christians Stand with Jesus
Pastor Gideon had been busy at work bringing the Word of God to an area not known to be very well receptive to it, and was responsible for converting many.
These conversions had outraged radicals in other religions, primarily Hindus. Many converts believe the brutal killing and public display of the pastor’s body was intended to scare away people who were considering taking Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
“This attack has terrified our church parishioners to their core, the death is a brutal murder of a devout Christian Pastor who was more vulnerable because he was alone and trusting of people,” an unidentified Christian reportedly told the British Pakistani Christian Association. “Pastor Gideon was well loved by all and we will all shed many tears for our lost brother.”
But the attempt at Christian intimidation appears to have backfired.
More than 2,000 believers stood their ground by taking to the streets and shutting down a local roadway in protest, according to UCA News. The Catholic news resource reported that protestors are “demanding the arrest of four people they suspect were behind the death of a Christian pastor who was found hanging.” The news report points to the suspects being “high-caste Hindus.”
Hindu extremists have been cited throughout the Asian nation for ongoing Christian persecutions.
“Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they experience increased persecution,” an Open Doors report states. “These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity, employing violence to this end. The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating violence may only increase.”
Since the 2014 election of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, religious tolerance has suffered. Modi is widely cited as a Hindu extremist that believes India’s cultural and governmental fabric should mirror that single religion. Religious minorities must either officially recognize Hindu hegemony or face persecution.
Extremists Cannot Prevent The Gospel From Spreading
Local law enforcement officials have reportedly indicated they fear widespread Hindu violence if the suspects are indicted. A Catholic news outlet reports an officer saying that “if the four are arrested, 10,000 will come out on the streets and there will be communal violence.”
That claim seems to point to the reason why the official cause of death has been ruled “suicide” rather than a religiously-motivated murder.
“Intolerant local police are shamefully choosing to ignore tangible evidence,” Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, said in an official statement. “The current situation is a slow regression towards a similar type of anarchy to the one that has palpably consumed Pakistan. I pray that the Modi regime loses the next election permitting a more egalitarian government to correct the perilous trajectory that (Bharatiya Janata Party) are hurtling towards.”
AsiaNews reports that thousands of lower-caste Hindus have already embraced the Gospel, and many more are expected to convert. One such individual reportedly said violent Hindus are “not happy with the increase of the Christian faithful” and had engaged in unrelenting efforts to frighten Pastor Gideon.
If Hindu extremists believe they can stem the tide of God’s word spreading, they are sorely mistaken. According to NGO Open Doors, upwards of 64 million Christians now reside in India, and conversions continue to occur at a high rate.
~ 1776 Christian