Pastor Balu Saste, his wife, and eleven congregants were peacefully celebrating Mass when an angry mob stormed their place of worship and attacked the pastor and his flock. The small Christian community was harassed and beaten by the mob until authorities arrived on the scene, at which time the victims were detained and charged under the Indian anti-conversion laws.
This is a sad reality for Indian Christians, a minority in the predominantly Hindu and Buddhist country where incidents of mob violence against Christians are on the rise. In February, the New Indian Express reported 29 incidents of violence towards Christians in just January, 2019. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India describes these incidents, which have become a social norm, as very similar to Pastor Saste’s case:
“A mob accompanied by police arrives at the prayer services, shouts slogans, beats up the congregations…Then pastors are arrested or detained by police under false allegation of conversion.”
The blind pastor Balu, his wife Bhuri, and son Ruben, —” campaign commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — were all detained, treated like criminals after a vicious mob beat them. Then, according to an ADF press release, police arrested the family, stripped them of their clothing, beat them, and held them without bail for three days. The entire family was convicted of forced conversions and are now awaiting judgment of their appeal.
Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India, commented:
“Pastor Balu and his family are merely trying to serve their small community of Christian believers. Their right to do so is firmly secured under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which provides for religious freedom. This is not the only case in India where Christians have been falsely accused under anti-conversion laws. These laws make religious minorities subject to arbitrary imprisonments and criminal charges, mob violence, and violations of their fundamental rights.”
While the right to choose one’s own religion is protected by the Indian Constitution, India was named to the top 10 of the world watch list for the persecution of Christians.