NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)-- Twenty Baptist pastors have been attacked by suspected Hindu militants in southeastern India and several church leaders required hospital treatment for severe injuries, representatives said Friday, June 7.
The All India Christian Council (AICC), which represents churches and mission groups, said the victims were from the Telugu Baptist Church who gathered for their monthly prayer meeting Tuesday, June 4, in the town of Maheshwaram Mandal, in the Indian state of Hyderabad.
About 50 followers of Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or 'National Volunteer Organization' (RSS) stormed the gathering and "brutally attacked" the pastors "with sticks and rods causing dreadful injuries" and verbally abused them, AICC added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.
The mob also accused the church leaders of forcing people to convert to Christianity, the group said.
SEVEN PASTORS HOSPITALIZED
Seven of the pastors, identified only as Thimothy, Kumar, Krupaiah, Roberts, Rosaiah, Lazarus and Thinothy, were rushed to hospital for serious injuries, according to AICC officials.
The attack is part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in the heavily Hindu nation, said John Dayal, AICC secretary general.
“We are deeply concerned that anti-Christian attacks are taking place in the state. After Karnataka [state] such violence against Christians has started in Andhra Pradesh,” Dayal added.
He said police had been asked to investigate the case. About 1,000 local Christians were also planning a peaceful rally to protest against the attack and demand justice, according to AICC investigators.
APPEAL TO AUTHORITIES
"While condemning the acts of the attackers, the AICC asks the local government to take stern action [against] the culprits," the group said.
The RSS had no immediate comment, but the right-wing group has criticized the spread of Christianity and what it calls the "forcible conversions" of Hindus.
Evangelical Christians have denied the charges, saying the Bible speaks of a free choice for Jesus Christ and that nobody can be forced to convert.
Reprinted with permission from Worthy News' Partner news agency, BosNewsLife.