Pentecostal pastor defiant over attacks on Indian Christians

By Ecumenical News International
July 2, 2007

Two months after being brutally assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists in the presence of television crews, Indian Christian Pastor Walter Masih says he is determined to continue his ministry - reports Anto Akkara from Bangalore.

Although he still needs a walking stick to move around, this did not deter the pastor from travelling more than 300 kilometres from Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, to New Delhi, where he took part in a rally to protest about a spate of attacks on Christians in recent months. In late June 2007 Masih also attended a national convention in Bangalore of Christians who say they have been persecuted.

"I am not scared. I will continue the work I have been doing for the last 17 years," 47-year-old Pentecostal pastor Masih told Ecumenical News International.

Indian television news channels broadcast the 29 April assault on the pastor after the assailants took film crews to the scene before the attack began. The assailants were shown putting on masks before they assaulted the pastor. Afterwards, images of his profusely bleeding face were screened.

"Two young men came to me after the Sunday service and asked me to speak about Jesus. As I was speaking the 'Good News', one of then said, 'Shall we start?'" recalled Masih.

The two men then began punching the pastor in the face. Four others joined in using wooden sticks to beat the pastor from head to foot. Meanwhile television cameras captured the attack, which took place in front of the pastor's wife and 7-year-old daughter, and the images were shown across India.

About ten families, most of them of Hindu background, are regular members at the church run by Pastor Masih from his rented house in the Geejghar Vihar suburb of Jaipur. Following the attack, some of the newer families have stopped attending, saying they are too scared to take part in the services.

"But I will never quit this Good News ministry," said Masih. He added that he hoped his determination to carry on his work of evangelism would bring more Hindus to his church.

There are fewer than 100,000 Christians among the 57 million people of Rajasthan.

The pastor told ENI that he also had moments of joy after the attack, when several Hindus visited him. He said they told him, "This is very bad and it is not Hinduism."

Critics say the police seldom take action against those accused of attacks on Christians, especially in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose opponents accuse it of following a Hindu nationalist agenda.

However, after the attack on Masih, and following angry protests by Christians and civil rights groups, Rajasthan police arrested five people.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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