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Sanjay Kumar Bharati - Photo: Morning Star News
Pastor Sanjay Kumar Bharati
Photo: Morning Star News

A pastor in northern India and his family were forced to flee after he experienced torture and threats from police. Pastor Sanjay Kumar Bharati was taken into custody on June 13th along with his wife, children, and several members of their church in Shyampur, Uttarakhand after authorities received a complaint that they were violating COVID-19 protocols. However, all of the interrogation questions asked by the police centred on the ministry of the church and conversions to Christianity.

As soon as Pastor Sanjay entered the police station, the officers began to beat him. While whipping him with a belt, they hurled insults at the pastor and accused him of giving financial incentives for people to convert to the Christian faith. Although Pastor Sanjay and his family moved to the village 12 years ago, the police called him an outsider and argued that he came to the area to lure community members into religious conversion.

Although the other detained believers were released from police custody, before Pastor Sanjay was allowed to leave, an officer ordered him to move out of the village. Following the incident, his landlord asked him to vacate the home where he and his family had been living, and no one else in the village was willing to rent any accommodations to them. Pastor Sanjay was also warned that if the authorities received one more complaint against him, he would be jailed. Concerned Christian leaders have urged the threatened family to leave the village for their safety and helped them move to an undisclosed location more than 900 kilometres away.

The church led by Pastor Sanjay had previously reached 150 members, but due to ongoing opposition, the numbers dropped to 50. After this incident with the police, a village meeting was conducted in which all the church members were threatened to stop attending the fellowship or be ostracized. Even though he has now left the village, Pastor Sanjay has continued to receive calls from members of the church who are facing intense pressure to abandon their faith in Christ. For more on the persecution of Christians in India, go to our country report.

Prayerfully uphold Pastor Sanjay, his wife and their three children as they readjust to this sudden forceful relocation. While this Christian family settles into their new home and community, may they experience a time of healing, spiritual refreshment and divine direction for future ministry opportunities. In the process, ask God to continue using this faithful pastor to provide greatly needed wisdom, guidance and encouragement to the members of the church in Shyampur, as they contend with intensified societal pressure. During this season of oppression, may these persecuted believers be strengthened by the assurance of God's ongoing presence and the fulfillment of His wonderful promises.