A pastor in India's eastern state of Jharkhand is dead after unidentified assailants shot him in the street while returning from a baptism service.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that while the motive for the murder has yet to be officially established, the family of the slain pastor claims he was killed for his faith.
Pastor Salim Surin was a part-time evangelist in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district and ran a small shop the village of Rania to support his wife and two children.
“They killed my husband in front of my own eyes,” Tarsis told International Christian Concern (ICC). “I was terrified seeing my husband collapse having been shot in the chest. I started to think about my children and loudly cried out to God to save me and take care of my children.”
ICC says the pastor and his wife had travelled to Putikda village because five people had expressed their desire to be baptized. After visiting the Christians in Putikda, Pastor Surin and his wife traveled home on the couple’s motorbike. Along the way, the couple was stopped by three unidentified individuals who shot and killed Pastor Surin.
“I pushed the man who was pointing the gun towards me,” Tarsis continued. “I ran into the thick bushes and the nearby forest. I probably walked for more than ten hours to reach my home. I purposely did not take the road to avoid the attackers.”
After Tarsis escaped, the unidentified assailants fled the scene of the murder. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Pastor Surin’s body was discovered lying on the road by local travelers.
Local Christians report there have been multiple threats issued against Christians in Putikda village. According to one source, the Christians of Putikda have been told they must renounce their Christian faith.
Despite the threats, Pastor Surin continued to visit Putikda and support its Christian community. A murder case was registered by police and an investigation has been opened to look into the matter, according to ICC.
Open Doors reports that "Christians in India face horrific levels of violence from extremists—thousands of attacks take place every year. Several states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws, and the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it clear that it wants to impose these laws nationwide. Such laws are often used as an excuse to disrupt church services and harass Christians, and make it incredibly difficult for Christians to share their faith with others."