Police in northern India thwarted a plot by Hindu extremists who threatened to burn to death more than 60 Christian converts if they refused to return to Hinduism by Sunday.
Members of a Christian movement called Believers Church met peacefully Sunday in the state of Himachal Pradesh, according to Compass Direct, a news service that monitors persecution of Christians.
“We were able to meet without incident,” said Ramish Masih Battih, the son of Pastor Feroz Masih.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the radical Hindus severely beat the pastor in a Nov. 4 attack, accusing him of “forcibly converting” Hindus. Masih sustained internal injuries requiring medical treatment and still is recovering.
The pastor’s son told Compass Direct the estimated 10 attackers were members of the World Hindu Council and its youth wing Bajrang Dal, which has been blamed for waves of attacks against Christians and other religious minorities since the rise of the Hindu nationalist party BJP in the late 1990s.
A police official said “misconceptions are the root of the problem.”
“There are many illiterate people who can easily be misled to believe that Christians are forcibly converting Hindus,” he explained.
The Masihs are connected to K.P. Yohannan’s Gospel for Asia missionary group.
Yohannan said police tried to arrange a meeting between the pastor and the attackers, but the assailants had gone into hiding.
“One positive outcome of this incident is that people in the area now know that those who come to faith in Christ are doing so because of the power of the Gospel, not the coercion of men,” Yohannan said.
At a press conference, he pointed out, “many of the new Christians testified that they had accepted Christ of their own free will – often because they had been healed of their diseases.”
Last week, the attackers forced Masih, 62, to sign a document stating his willingness to participate in a ceremony last Sunday in which all of the Christians would convert back to Hinduism.
Refusal to participate would prompt the radicals to burn the converts to death.
The congregation meets in the Masihs’ home in the town of Baijnath.
Yohannan said the threat was reminiscent of the brutal murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in 1999 by Hindu radicals in the state of Orissa, who vowed to burn alive anyone who did not renounce their new faith.