While the Bihar police seem to be keen on catching the fellows who beat up the pastor and his friends, the GEMS church authorities are too ‘afraid’ to speak up!
Bettiah police have not made any headway in Monday’s incident in which a Christian priest, Pastor Joseph, and some of his followers were assaulted at Bettiah bus stand after being accused of ‘indulging’ in religious conversions, according to local media reports.
“We have lodged an FIR. No arrests have been made yet,” Bettiah Town police station officer-in-charge Nityanand Chauhan said.
At Gem St Paul’s Church in Bettiah , fear was writ large on every face. Even gaining access to the authorities was an ordeal, a reporter for a local daily said.
“You can speak to and quote those who were assaulted on the condition that you protect their names,” said Pastor Joseph, chief priest of the Chakhani church.
“Fear is so deep-seated that nobody wants to land in trouble.”
” Kya hum yahaan dharm parivartan kar rahe hain? (Are we indulging in religious conversion here),” asked a woman follower even before she was asked.
“No. We are here for prayers. All I can say is we had a narrow escape yesterday.”
GEMS stands for Gospel Echoing Missionary Society, and the group is active in Bihar and other places in North India. They are a protestant group who have been opening schools, clinics, and educational services as a way of ‘Witnessing the Gospel’. Their website proclaims their ‘church planting’ activities. Observers say that they have been coming into conflict with some strong political interests in some of the rural areas of UP and Bihar.