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Indian court reopens church leader murder case dismissed by police

Country/Region: India, South and East Asia

A court in India has reopened the case of a murdered church leader, ordering that the killers be brought to justice after police had dismissed his death as a road accident.

The court in Baliguda, Kandhamal district, Orissa state, ruled on 7 August that Michael Nayak, who was aged around 40, was killed by Hindu extremists in July 2011. It also ordered an inquiry into the actions of the police officers who misled the initial investigation.

Victims of anti-Christian violence in India are often denied justice
Victims of anti-Christian violence in India are often denied justice

The development has been welcomed by the Christian community, who are often denied justice and feel that the police are complicit in acts of violence against them by failing to take action against the perpetrators.

Michael's body was found lying by the side of a road near the village of Mondakia; the only wound was a hole below the ear that was bleeding. Police said that the pastor had lost control of his motorbike and fallen in a ditch. But Michael's family did not think that the condition of both his body and his vehicle were consistent with this explanation and were convinced that he had been murdered; the pastor had no cuts or bruises, and there was only minimal damage to the bike.

His brother Daniel said at the time:

"The glass of the headlight came out, not even broken, and the gear shifter was damaged, otherwise the bike is in good condition. I refuse to accept the police version that he could not turn his bike at the bend of the road and fell down. In fact even his spectacles were not broken."

The evening before, two of Michael's Hindu friends had come to his village and asked him for a lift home. The church leader willingly took the pair on his motorbike, leaving at 8.30pm, and was never seen alive again.

The Global Council of Indian Christians is now calling for five other similar cases in the region that were registered by the police as accidental deaths to be reinvestigated.

One of them, which Christian activist KG Markose said "bore a startling resemblance" to Michael's death, is that of another church leader, Saul Pradhan, whose body was found near a pond in Pakala village on 11 January 2011. The pastor had likewise been taken away from his house by two Hindu friends the night before. Police attributed Saul's death to exposure.

Christians in Kandhamal have suffered extensive persecution, most notably at Christmas 2007 and between August and October 2008 when Hindu extremists attacked Christians and their property in hundreds of villages. Around 90 Christians were killed, many thousands injured and over 56,000 displaced by the violence. Justice has eluded most of the victims. 

 

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Daily prayer

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 11 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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