Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy and his church were attracting a lower caste of people to the area, and that was unacceptable to the local high-caste villagers. “Leave this village, or else we will make life difficult for you,” the Hindu radicals had told him. But Periyaswamy was willing to face any difficulties to serve the Lord in his homeland of India. “If the Lord permits it, I would die as a martyr for Christ,” he had told a fellow pastor.
Periyaswamy had left Hinduism for Christ as a young man and had served in ministry for most of his life. In 2015, he planted a church in a high-caste Hindu area near the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state. Unsurprisingly, Hindu activists did not welcome the new church. They harassed Periyaswamy nearly every Sunday, and in 2017 the harassment escalated to a severe beating. Still, Periyaswamy urged his congregation to live peacefully with their neighbours.
Then, on the morning of 20 January, 2018, some members of Periyaswamy’s congregation discovered his body hanging from the ceiling of his home. Upon closer investigation, it became apparent that the unmarried pastor had been murdered and then hanged in order to make it look like a suicide.
The persecution of Christians by radical Hindus has intensified since the 2014 election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has ties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Hindu nationalist organization. At the time of Periyaswamy’s martyrdom, RSS informants were known to be living in nearly every village in India, reporting on the activities of Christians.
The surge in persecution is also related to the increased efforts of bold evangelists and pastors like Periyaswamy, who continue to lead Hindus to Christ despite threats and beatings intended to stop their witnessing. Radical Hindus are enraged when they see other Hindus turn to Christ, disrupting their plans for a purely Hindu nation. But Christians in India remain faithful to Christ’s Great Commission and continue to courageously share the Gospel in India and lead many Hindus to Christ.
Excerpted and edited from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs.