Pastor who lost wife to COVID-19 forced to stop worship
Pastor Raj Masih and his three children have not been able to return home to their village in eastern India since Sept. 28, when Hindu extremists attacked him.
“I returned home bruised that night. My children saw me and were frightened,” Pastor Masih told Morning Star News. “Since we lost my wife to COVID-19 in April this year, I am all they have.”
The 36-year-old pastor was at a market about half a mile from his home in Simri village, Bihar state when about 25 Hindu extremists surrounded him. After taking him away from onlookers, they told him to stop leading worship services as they kicked and punched him, he said.
“For the first time in the nine years of ministry in Simri, I took this extreme step of taking a break from Lord’s work there,” Masih told Morning Star News. “My children, ages 12, 9 and 7, have missed their school for more than a month now, but I thought it is enough if I am alive for them. I need to care and provide for them.”
Pastor Masih said the assailants seized him by his clothes and forced him out of the market where he was buying vegetables to prepare dinner for his children.
“They dragged me for about a kilometer as they shouted and abused me in extremely filthy language,” he said.
They stopped in a secluded area, slapped him on both cheeks, punched him in the stomach, kicked his chest and struck his back with their fists and shoes, he said.
“They kept repeating, ‘Stop Christian prayers. Shut down your church. If we see you conducting prayers, we will not spare you alive,’” he said. “They kicked very hard on my chest.”
Early the next morning, he packed up the kids and left for an undisclosed location.
“At least 300 members from different religious backgrounds were attending worship services in Simri,” Pastor Masih said. “More and more Hindus were putting faith in Christ as they witnessed their family members or relatives become strong in faith, leaving behind idol worship.”
As the church grew, Hindu extremist opposition rose, he said.
“Even after leaving Simri, they continued sending threats to me through text messages and phone calls,” he said. “They were having an impact on my young children. Some of the clippings of me praying for the sick and sharing about Christ started circulating on social media. Every other day, a video of me would appear on Facebook or WhatsApp groups accompanied by a post urging Hindus to resist such Christian preachers and inform the Hindu extremist groups.”
India ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, as it was in 2020. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position worsened after Modi came to power.