Christian widow forced to re-convert after husband’s death

7 June 2021

A Christian widow in Odisha State, India, has been forced to re-convert to her old religion by villagers who threatened to prevent his funeral.

The husband, from the Koya tribal group (which largely practises a traditional animistic Indian religion), along with other family members, had professed faith in Christ and started to attend church with his wife.

After his death the Koya villagers forcibly took money from the widow, coerced her into re-joining their community (effectively forcing her to re-convert), and conducted her husband’s funeral in the traditional, non-Christian way.

“Today, I have no other way and so accepted their custom,” the widow told her pastor. “But I will not leave the Lord Jesus. I will come back again.”

The Christian woman, under tremendous pressure as well as grief from the loss of her husband, was also physically attacked by her husband’s brother, who during a dispute over the situation attempted to beat her.

Her husband’s death came after he faced opposition from members of his community for his conversion to Christianity, who confiscated parts of his land and sought to obstruct his work on what remained.

Persecution of Christians in rural areas is a persistent issue in India. In January the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) announced that it had recorded 327 instances of discrimination and targeted violence against Christians in 2020, including five murders, at least six churches burnt or destroyed and 26 incidents of social boycotting.

This, the EFI stated, was “by no means an exhaustive list … Christians, especially in rural areas of several states across the country, were victims of violence, had their congregational prayers disturbed, and places of worship attacked.”

In May a crowd of around 150 Hindu extremists attacked and destroyed a church building which was being constructed in the village of Bodoguda, also in Odisha State.

From Barnabas Fund contacts

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India