How did it all start for these persecuted Christians? Our partners in the field say that the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a Hindu nationalist group that seeks to remove Christians and all religious minorities from India, has been working with leaders in the tribal areas and training them to oppose believers. Now these teachings have spread through the villages of Chhattisgarh. Many of the leaders, known as the panchayat, decided to create a massive campaign to force Christians to deny Jesus and return to their religion—or leave their homes for good.
The tensions started to build through the end of 2022. In early January of 2023, the panchayat followed through on their threats and led extremist mobs through Chhattisgarh, India, to confront believers, beating them with sticks and fists, stealing possessions and demolishing homes. A church service was also attacked in which the mob burned the building, scattered believers and warned the Christians they should never return.
Thousands of persecuted Christians were displaced. Many had to seek shelter in other villages, some set up makeshift tents in distant communities and still others flooded into churches and stadiums to find shelter after the attacks.
Later during our visit, I spent time with a young man named Kave. He wore navy blue pants, a light blue shirt tucked in neatly and a contagious smile. We shared tea together and talked about our families. He’s married with an eight-year-old son.
Kave grew up as a devout Hindu but always felt something was missing. When he finally heard the gospel of Jesus in 2006, he knew he wanted to give his life to God and leave the faith of his family and country. He also knew that persecution would come. It wasn’t long before others in the village told him he was no longer allowed to use the well to draw water. He was ostracized and his community rejected him.
But Kave never doubted his faith.
In January, after leading a Bible study with other believers, Kave heard that an angry mob was on its way to his house. The other believers told him to leave and hide, but Kave refused. “My home is here. Why would I go? I didn’t do anything to anyone,” Kave said.
That morning, 150 people from three different villages stormed Kave’s home. “Return to your Hindu faith or leave!” they shouted. But Kave told them he wouldn’t leave Jesus. “He has given me life,” he told the crowd.
“Even if you kill me, I will not leave Jesus,” Kave added.
That’s when the angry crowd became violent. People started hitting Kave. First, with open-handed slaps. Then, with closed fists. Once Kave fell to the ground, they began kicking him.
The crowd shouted, “You will leave now!” as they continued to strike Kave.
Eventually, the crowd left him, and some believers helped Kave from the ground. He knew it was unsafe to stay at home, so he spent the night sleeping in the forest. The next day, he heard that his house was destroyed and all his possessions were stolen.
“If we would’ve stayed, they would’ve killed us,” Kave says.