Mob Burns Down Church in India After Accusing Pastor of Forced Conversions

ICC Note: A mob of Hindu radicals burned down Pastor Jeewer Joeswa’s church in January after accusing the pastor of forcefully converting a Hindu couple to Christianity. Accusations of forced conversion are often leveled against Christians as a means of justifying attacks on the minority community. Violence against Christians and other religious minorities in India have skyrocketed in the last four years largely due to the impunity enjoyed by Hindu radicals operating across the country.

02/10/2018 India (Morning Star News) – Pastor Jeewer Joeswa wasn’t sure what to think when a massive, chanting Hindu throng in northern India brought the corpse of a Christian woman to his church site – then set the building on fire.

Seema Devi, 23, had put her faith in Christ several months before, after the pastor had offered up healing prayer for her. Now, on Jan. 16, Pastor Joeswa was surrounded by a Hindu mob administering last rites and burning her body on church premises in Sehal Village, in Jammu and Kashmir state.

“A mob of men and women, at least 1,000 in number shouting, ‘Jai Sri RamJai Sri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],’ brought Seema’s body to the church,” Pastor Joeswa told Morning Star News.

The mob alleged that Pastor Joeswa had prayed for Devi and so was responsible for her death, Chittaranjan Tandy, secretary of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, Jammu Region, told Morning Star News. He said that her husband, Rinku Kumar, was kept in police custody for his own security after the mob tried to burn him alive alongside his deceased wife.

“The police from Nowshera police station tried to control the mob, but they put fire on the church building, vehicles of believers parked near the church, church equipment, furniture and every object in sight, including the food grains,” Tandy said.

In the violence at the village in Rajouri District, the mob alleged that Devi and her husband had been forcibly converted, he said.

“There was no forced conversion,” Tandy said. “The couple voluntarily attended the church and accepted Christ. In fact, they had experienced the healing and were strong in faith.”

Superintendent of Police Popsi Malik told Morning Star News that Devi and her husband had been attending church but were still practicing some Hindu rituals.

“They were in the rudimentary phase, thinking whether to continue as Hindu or Christian,” Malik said. “It was the assumption of the mob that the couple got converted by force. Before her death, the couple were attending their church in Punjab state. People have presumed that he was converted to Christianity forcefully. But that was not true.”

Malik said police brought the mob under control, though not before both Christians and Hindus were injured in the altercation.

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