India (GFA/MNN) — Mission Network News shares a lot of stories of angry mobs attacking churches. There are so many incidents that sometimes one blurs into another.
This time, though, it feels more personal.
A story from Gospel For Asia shares an attack on a church in Haryana State, located in northern India. K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia's (GFA) founder and president, says while the state doesn't have an anti-conversion law on the books, the antagonism toward Christians is so strong that it's nearly palpable.
First of all, the congregation went through the proper channels for building a church. Usually, people will leave the building alone because, as Yohannan puts it, "No one wants to damage the building because of the religious sentiment of the people."
This church group got the permits they needed and began building. "The believers themselves give of their labor, working hard day and night. We provide the finances for them to buy the materials and all those things. It took them two years to construct this building which seats 300-400 people."
All that was left was putting the roof on. Local believers say the community has a history of violence against Christians. In fact, Pastor Tanvir is the fifth pastor to come to the village; the previous four left due to opposition.
Although the building project initially met with resistance, the climate seemed to improve recently and construction resumed. Then came August 25.
Shouting religious slogans, a mob estimated at 1,000 people arrived at the church and began using their bare hands to tear it apart. This isn't a slapdash plywood building, but one made of brick and mortar. Yohannan said the church members were dumbfounded, watching the destruction of this labor of love. "They simply could not believe that these people could lift a couple thousand kilograms of steel truss and tear it down, and then break down the walls, brick-by-brick."
By the time they came to their senses, the mood had shifted dangerously. With the building demolished, the mob began to beat the pastor, his mother, and church members, some of whom escaped and went into hiding. No deaths were reported.
"This is life and blood and sweat and agony, deep emotional involvement of the believers, who, many, many times are the first generation of believers. They love God, they love Jesus." A week later, the shock is giving way to grief. "To see the work of their hand being destroyed in front of their eyes, it becomes very, very sad."
Initially, the grief had the added burden of frustration because local police didn't want to get involved. Then, a government official heard the story. The first of several answered prayers began coming. "The government has now taken this into serious consideration and is going after the people who led the mob in destroying the church. I don't know how far that has gone now, but we can at least thank God that the government is getting involved with it now."
The local church body has faith that God will continue to work in this area. "It is our desire that these who are persecuting will know the love of God for them," said Yohannan, adding they plan to rebuild.
Church leaders have requested prayer from believers around the world that God will protect the pastor, his family, and the congregation, and open the eyes of the villagers so they might experience the love of Jesus in their lives.
Then, Yohannan urges, "Have the Lord give us a burden to pray. Secondly, look for opportunities like this where they can not only pray, but share their resources. Our goal is to see literally hundreds and hundreds of congregations that will have the opportunity to have churches like this constructed."
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