At least three Christian families have converted back to a tribal religion in Jharkhand state, India, after Hindu extremists destroyed their homes, leaving them in fear of losing their land and resources.
Morning Star News reported that five families in Lisiya village, West Singhbhum District, returned home from a worship service in October to find that one of the homes had been destroyed by tribal movement Adivasi Ho Samaj.
Adivasi Ho Samaj, who are reportedly under the influence of Hindu extremists, destroyed the home of Christian Sidiu Bari and his family as a warning to believers that they are not welcome.
"They damaged Bari's roof, threw away their clothes and utensils, and took away a sum of 20,500 rupees [$280]," area resident Subod Sinku said. "Even after all this, they were not done. There was lot of verbal abuse and verbal grilling that continued for at least a week after the [Oct. 18] incident."
Threatened with losing their lands and being expelled from the village, three of the Christian families decided to convert back to the tribal religion of Sarnaism.
"Pastors and Christians from Lisiya and surrounding village churches tried to encourage them to continue in the Christian faith in these testing times," Sinku said. "But we were only able to get Sidiu Bari to write a complaint and report the matter to a local police station."
Another anonymous source told MNN: "The situation in Jharkhand is turning worse since the Ho Samaj joined hands with the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], holding meetings to instigate the tribal population against their own brethren for choosing to follow Christ."
Sinku affirmed that he and other Christians have been warned that they will not receive their share of the land if they do not abandon their faith in Jesus.
"Putting faith in Christ is a matter of heart, and gradually as a new convert from the Adivasi religion grows in fellowship with other Christians, one's entire lifestyle gets transformed," Sinku added.
"You learn many things. You become particular about hygiene, your intake of food, dressing, and you are not afraid to move to the city for education and get a job. This is not how indigenous tribes live. And, they think that we can afford the clothes, food and education from the supposed amount we received because of conversion to Christianity. It is completely false."
Christian communities in the area continue to suffer other forms of persecution as well, such as worship services being interrupted and church buildings being taken over and converted for other purposes. Hindu hardliners have often accused them of forcefully converting villagers to the Christian faith, though church leaders have denied that conversions are being forced.
In another attack in July, Pastor Srinivas Sapa told persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern that Hindu radicals in the village of Sangameshwar, north of Hyderabad, destroyed the only church building there.
"All that the Hindu radicals want is for Sangameshwar to be a 'Christian-free' village," Sapa said.
"Of all the 50 odd Christians who are native to Sangameshwar, most were born in the village and are now panicked over the situation," he added.
The pastor warned that even when courts side with Christian churches when it comes to land disputes, radicals take the law into their own hands and attack believers.