Sunday service interrupted by Hindu extremists in Chhattisgarh
by Nirmala Carvalho

In the city of Raipur, a crowd of nationalists attacked the community of Pastor Firoz Bagh, who was detained by police for a few hours on charges of false conversion. “My church is a registered organisation,” Pastor Bagh said. “I have preached for 20 years,” he added. Now someone is trying to stop him while his coreligionists are being threatened.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Another Christian community was attacked by Hindu extremists last Sunday in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

Pastor Firoz Bagh, of the St Thomas Evangelical Mission, was leading the prayer in his house, as he has done for the past two years. Some 30 people were present at the celebration, complying with anti-COVID restrictions.

Around 8.30 am, while the pastor was preaching, about 35 right-wing nationalist extremists surrounded the house, shouting anti-Christian slogans.

One of them called the police who stopped the pastor and took him into custody for a few hours.

Meanwhile, the mob of Hindu radicals grew and surrounded the police station, shouting accusations of forced conversions and threatening to attack the pastor.

Now they say they will no longer allow the clergyman to lead prayer meetings in that area.

“My church is a registered organisation,” Pastor Bagh told AsiaNews. “I have preached for 20 years in a rented room and just two years ago I bought this house. Many people come here and our door is open to everyone.

“The word of God brings peace, hope and dignity. Now they tell me that I cannot preach even if India is a secular state. The members of my congregation are very frightened; they feel they are being targeted by extremists.”

“We strongly condemn these accusations of false conversions,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews.

“Religious freedom is a right guaranteed by the constitution. Pastor Bagh was just sharing the good news, not forcing anyone. What's wrong with that? Why is the small Christian community alone threatened by extremists and arrested by the police?

“We ask for protection for Pastor Bagh and his congregation, forced to deal with the fear of a new attack.”