Manju Keralli, a pastor in India, was leading a worship service when he was attacked.
A group of radical Hindu nationalists stormed into his church, bent on destruction.
And what happened next has changed his life.
Pastor Keralli could only watch as the radicals shouted abusive statements at his congregation. The Hindu nationalists quickly turned to physical violence, assaulting the congregation and smashing the church’s musical instruments and furniture.
Then, they turned on the pastor.
“I fell to the ground after receiving several punches and kicks,” Pastor Keralli said. “Then, they dragged me out of the meeting hall, tied me to a tree outside, and further released blows and punches.”
The radicals refused to stop beating Pastor Keralli, dragging him around the village to further threaten other Christians and nonconformists.
“They took me to two other places in the same village and tied me to an electrical pole and a pillar in the marketplace,” Pastor Keralli reported. “All the time they continued their physical harassment for more than three hours.”
When the group of nationalists finally stopped their brutal assault, Pastor Keralli was left beaten and broken. The police finally arrived on the scene, but were far too late to help.
And it soon became clear they weren’t going to help Pastor Keralli or any of the other Christians in his village.
“Later, police arrived and took me to the police station,” Pastor Keralli revealed. The police refused to take the beaten pastor to a hospital.
“Even [they] threatened me with foul language, saying that I don’t have [the] right to live in this country as I am practicing foreign faith,” Pastor Keralli continued.
The police then filed a criminal case against Pastor Keralli, accusing him of “blasphemy,” just as the Hindu radicals had done. Notably, the police declined to file a criminal case against the radicals.
“There is a legal case filed against me that I am involved in illegal conversions,” Pastor Keralli reported.
The police have clearly sided with the Hindu nationalists who are seeking to chase all Christians out of India.
India’s Freedom of Religion Act, approved in 2019, bans religious conversion by force. But this law, intended to protect citizens, is easily abused by Hindu radicals and used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities.
Stories like Pastor Keralli’s are, unfortunately, all too common right now. Several other pastors in the region have been attacked in recent weeks and police have turned a blind eye each time.
“Recently, there have been five attacks on pastors in [Keralli’s] district alone,” an anonymous Christian leader said. “The number of incidents have grown sharply because of the complicity of the police and the free hand given to Hindu radicals.”
“This will make it even more difficult for Christians in the state.”
As only one example of these practices, Pastor Keralli’s church is now in disarray and the pastor himself is suffering great pain.
“I am unable to sit, as there is an injury on my back,” he admitted. “Doctors are suspecting that there could be [a] fracture on my spine. I have severe pain in my lower abdomen and have difficulty breathing.”
Pastor Keralli has fled his home district and is currently in hiding, fearing arrest and further charges from police. He is currently unsure of how to respond to the false charges of blasphemy and forced conversion.
Pastor Keralli is one of hundreds of Indian Christians who have faced violence because of their religious beliefs.
According to Open Doors USA, President Trump’s February visit to India revealed that the nation has not improved its stance on religious freedom.
“The president did raise the issues with [the Indian Prime Minister] Modi,” said Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
“But…they have got a lot of things…that push religious buttons. So people get really fired up,” Brownback added. “There is a lot of Hindu nationalism that has been going on more aggressively and you are seeing some of the consequences.”
India remains one of the top ten most dangerous countries in the world for Christians. Christians like Pastor Keralli are threatened, harassed, and killed every day for their faith.
If you’re interested in supporting Christians like Pastor Keralli, take a pledge to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.