A 30-year-old Christian pastor was abducted and then killed by Maoist guerillas in the west Indian state of Maharashtra.
Pastor Munsi Deo Tando was murdered on July 10 by members of the Maoist group known as Naxalites who have waged an armed struggle against the Indian state for five decades.
Until seven years ago, Munsi was a former member of the Maoist guerilla movement himself. It has been alleged that he was branded an informer by some local Hindus upset by his evangelizing.
Shibu Thomas, founder of Persecution Relief, told LiCAS.news that Munsi is “survived by his wife and three young children who are currently in a state of shock.”
Thomas said that the pastor and his family faced a lot of persecution in their village because of their Christian faith.
At the time of his adduction Munsi was leading a late-afternoon prayer and fasting meeting in a village church in Bhatpar village. Eye witnesses said a group of six Naxalites — three of them women — entered the church and dragged Munsi out. After tying his hands, they bundled him into a vehicle and drove him to a nearby woodland where they shot him at point blank range. His dead body was found in the woodland a day later.
Wilson Nathan, a Christian lawyer associated with Alliance Defending Freedom told, LiCAS.news that a funeral was held for the slain pastor on July 12 after a post mortem was conducted by local health authorities.
Due to fears of the Naxalites returning only a handful of people attended the funeral, Nathan said.
“There was fear among local pastors and believers that they too could be branded as police informers and killed by the Maoist guerrillas,” he said.
Nathan said that Munsi left the Naxalites years ago and became an active member of India Gospel League which led him to preach Christianity among villagers.
Brother Stephen from the Indian Gospel League said that after Munsi became religious he returned to his ancestral village and established a Church in his home, much to the displeasure of local anti-Christian Hindus who began a social boycott against the pastor and his family
“The family was not even allowed to fetch water from a local well. However, the hardships didn’t deter Pastor Munsi from his mission,” Stephen said.
Another pastor namely Praful, who worked closely with Munsi, told LiCAS.news that as part of the harassment some local villagers accused him of being a police informer against Naxalites in the area.
“Most of the police informers against Naxalites in the state are former members of the group. As Pastor Munsi himself was associated with the outfit, it became easy for the villagers to brand him as a police informer,” Praful alleged.
The Naxalite movement first erupted in 1967 from India’s eastern region of Naxalbari. It is currently active and waging an insurgency in several Indian states.
Nehemiah Christie, a New Delhi based Christian activist, called on the government “to rein in fanatical groups who believe they have complete immunity to kill Christians without remorse.”