Story India | 15-8-2022

‘Our time of persecution has come’


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Pastor Shekhar’s son was supposed to be a minister. Pastor Shekhar* had begun training him in the ministry, confident that the boy would continue in his father’s footsteps and serve the Lord in a pastoral calling. But then Shekhar’s arrest happened.

Being jailed, tortured and then told to leave his home changed everything. Shekhar is honest about his fears: “Sometimes when I think about this incident, I feel frightened,” Shekhar says. “My family also feels terrified. My wife is still in fear and shock and refuses to let our son be involved in ministry because we’ve seen so much pain in our lives.”

What happened to Pastor Shekhar and his family to inflict such wounds and leave such lasting scars? It started simply because they are Christians in India.

Pastor Shekhar is a church leader from southern India. We can’t tell you where he currently lives or works—India has become so dangerous for Christians who are active in sharing the love and message of Jesus (it’s No. 10 on the 2022 World Watch List), that sharing his real name, hometown or photo could put him and his family at incredible risk.

“We have to face many challenges”

When Pastor Shekhar became a Christian, he felt God call him to ministry in the church. His compassionate leadership was largely geared toward small prayer and worship meetings in peoples’ homes, particularly when people needed healing or comfort. But it wasn’t easy.

“Being a church leader, we come across people who blame us for conversion and accuse [us] of luring people with money to convert,” Shekhar says. “They say we’re now Christians and have left our gods to start following foreign gods. We have to face many challenges – our relatives say that they won’t come to our house and that our children won’t get married because we’ve changed our religion.”

India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and for decades, India has been a place of respite for people of many faiths fleeing oppression. But the persecution of Christians in India is intensifying in many parts of the country as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse India of the presence and influence of believers.

The persecution intensified for Pastor Shekhar and his family too.

Arrested and beaten

On the day that changed everything, Pastor Shekhar gathered with some believers for a prayer meeting. During these meetings, they would worship God and pray, and read and meditate on passages of Scripture. They would also pray and fast for healing and deliverance of the sick.

While they were praying, policemen came and broke up the meeting. “It was at this moment I realized that our time of persecution has come. I was a bit frightened at this situation from the inside but stood courageously and didn’t run away,” Shekhar says. “The policemen seized our Bibles and books and threatened us, then they told us to come to the police station.”

It was at the police station where the violence started.

The policemen beat Shekhar on his back and feet with bamboo canes. They slapped him so hard on the head that his eardrums burst. They interrogated him, demanding to know if he was paying Hindus to convert to Christianity. When he denied their accusations, they beat him more. “I was in intense pain, swelling, sadness, fear and anxiety after that,” Pastor Shekhar says.

But amazingly, even in the horror, Pastor Shekhar felt close to Jesus. “I got scared when I was tortured, beaten and abused by people, but in the midst of it, I remembered God’s promises; He has promised to not leave us as orphans, but will keep us and sustain us.”

I got scared when I was tortured, beaten and abused by people, but in the midst of it, I remembered God’s promises

Pastor Shekhar
The police officers finally released him with a warning that if he and his family didn’t leave, they’d be thrown in jail.

The repercussions of trauma

The next day, Shekhar went to report his ordeal to the police – but they only repeated the ultimatum: leave, or else. His persecutors also spoke with Shekhar’s landlord, to make sure the family left.

Shekhar knows his arrest and torture have deeply impacted his family. “Through this all, I took care of my family and meditated on what is written in the book of Timothy – that I am a husband to my wife and a father to my children before I am a pastor,” he says. “It is my responsibility to take care of them and keep them safe. I decided to [leave our home] so that I could keep my family safe and continue the ministry.”

Pastor Shekhar’s wife and son are also still deeply affected. “My wife [refused to let me continue my ministry] and [wouldn’t] let my son be involved in the ministry, as we’ve gone through a lot of pain, sadness and fear. We don’t want to face more in the future,” he says.

He told his wife that he couldn’t control what God would call their son to—and reassured her that the call of God on his own life was stronger than anything he might face as a church leader in India. “I’ll keep serving God till my last breath, even in happiness or sadness, even if I have to suffer greatly or slightly, even if I have to give my life for God,” Pastor Shekhar says resolutely. “I cannot stop serving God. I cannot live without serving God because I’ve surrendered my whole life to Him.

The attack also financially devastated Pastor Shekhar and his family. His medical bills from the beatings were substantial, and he and his wife knew they would have trouble with groceries and rent. But, though they had to leave their community, this family wasn’t alone.

Pastor Shekhar preparing the Communion table

‘We stand strong like the prophets of old’

When Open Doors partners heard what happened to Pastor Shekhar, they were able to come alongside the family and offer immediate support—thanks to your gifts and prayers. Open Doors partners were able to provide medical help, groceries and rent assistance for the family as they rebuilt their lives. “At that time of sadness, we could feel you as a family standing by us to pray all the time,” Pastor Shekhar shares.

You took care of me like an injured bird... which is why I am standing today.

Pastor Shekhar
“If an animal or a bird is injured, it’s unable to get up on its own—it needs treatment,” Pastor Shekhar says. “My life was also incapacitated at that time, and we were troubled and tired. I had faith and belief but didn’t have strength to stand on my own. You took care of me like an injured bird and gave me enough strength and courage to stand on my own, which is why I am standing today.”

Thanks to your gifts and your prayers, Pastor Shekhar and his family can continue to be a light for Jesus amidst the challenges in India through his enduring ministry.

“When we follow the Lord after leaving everything, our relatives, neighbors and many people come and persecute us,” Pastor Shekhar says. “But Jesus says that the person who suffers for Him is blessed (Matt. 5:10). We are jailed and brutally beaten and tortured, but we stand strong like the prophets of old because we are strong in the Word of God.”

*Name changed for security reasons
Stand with the church in India
  • For continued healing for Pastor Shekhar and his family, that they will draw fresh strength from being rooted and established in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17)
  • That God will strengthen the church and community Shekhar left behind, and raise up new leaders
  • For an end to corruption and abuse in the Indian police force.
Please Give
  • Every HK$580 could give a persecuted Christian a loan and training, so they can open a small business and support their family.
  • Every HK$820 could provide emergency food, medicine and shelter to four believers in India affected by persecution.
  • Every HK$980 could train 20 believers, equipping them with a biblical response to persecution.
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