Unfortunately, the months of May, June, and July have seen a handful of deaths of Indian Christians, both men and women as well as adults and teenagers, in a string of unrelated murders believed to be motivated by religious extremism. The most recent incident occurred on 19 July 2020, when 25-year-old Christian convert woman Suman Munda‘s body was found when family members went searching for the young woman after finding her missing from her home in Redhadi village, Khunti district, Jharkhand state.
Munda had converted to Christianity six year prior and, according to a pastor that knew the woman very well, she had been repeatedly harassed by radical Hindu nationalists who attempted to convince her to renounce Christianity and convert to Hinduism. Bishop Binay Kandulna of the community responded to the murder, stating:
“Persons of any faith are a creation of God and we have to respect all, but some vested interest groups are trying to target minorities in the state to spread hatred among various faiths who are otherwise peace-loving people. We condemn the killing and appeal to the administration to take strict action against the culprits. It is very unfortunate that we have lost a precious life.”
On 10 July, Pastor Munsi Deo Tando of Gadchiroli District, Maharashtra state, was ambushed in his home by a group of male and female radical anti-Maoist rebels. The group bound his limbs with rope and forced him to follow them into the nearby forest where they shot him and left his body. Prior to the murder, “since he refused to succumb to their threats and persecution, they tried to brand him as an associate of the Maoist, locally called Naxalites, in an attempt to put him behind bars.” Pastor Tando leaves behind his wife, Jiani, and four young children.
Last month, 15-year-old Samaru Madkami, whose entire family had recently converted to Christianity as a whole and faced subsequent persecution and intimidation by their community peers, was abducted in the middle of the night of 4 June and murdered by a group of men from his own village. The six young men responsible for the murder admitted to the crime, stating that they killed Madkami- whose family was just one of three Christian households in the village- because they suspected him of engaging in ‘witchcraft’ that they believed caused multiple deaths in the community. Archbishop John Barwa explained:
“There is a lot of tension in this area for our Tribal and Dalit Christians. It is not uncommon for our people to be falsely labelled as practitioners of witchcraft or even being Naxalites.” [Communist militants]
Also in early June, 27-year-old Christian convert Kande Mudu was ambushed and killed in his own home by an a group of unidentified armed individuals. Mudu was survived by his wife, Bindu, and his two daughters, all of whom escaped the community following their husband’s and father’s death. Bindu reported that her husband was fearless when the men ambushed the home, telling his wife to escape and continue to believe in God, before his throat was cut by the intruders. To this day, no suspects have been identified or apprehended for Mudu’s murder.
On June 24th, the body of 27-year-old Ramji Munda was found in Gharga village in Khunti district, Jarkhand. Munda was a tribal Christian and it is believed he was murdered for his knowledge of the municipal government’s corruption. In late May, 38-year-old Christian woman Bijaya Mandavi’s body was found in a jungle near Kondagon district’s Baddi village, Chhattisgarh state. Mandavi converted to Christianity in 2017 following what she called a “miraculous healing,” and subsequently received persecution by both community peers and her own family. According to Pastor Salam, who know Mandavi personally;
“I never thought this would happen. About three months back, Bijaya’s extended family told her that they would cut her into pieces and kill her if she didn’t give up her Christian faith. I never thought they would keep their word.”
Jubilee Campaign stands with Indian Christians in their fight against persecution, discrimination, intimidation, and violence, and we will continue to advocate for complete and unmitigated religious freedom in India for all religious minorities.