When Gaurav*, a church leader from India, ignored warnings to stop sharing about Christianity, false charges were brought against him and he was arrested and imprisoned. Sadly, his story is not uncommon; extremists from local communities, threatened by growing numbers turning to Jesus, often bring false accusations against leaders to cripple church growth. Here, Guarav shares about his arrest and imprisonment…
I had been sharing about Jesus to the people in my community, despite opposition and threats by the extremist groups.
"But little had I anticipated what awaited me behind the bars..." Gaurav*
I was organising a local church programme one day, when policemen appeared and I was forcibly taken to the police station with little explanation. Someone had informed the police about my involvement with the church and sharing about Christianity. False charges had been filed against me blaming me for converting people to Christianity using fraudulent means. This was not the only case registered, there were other additional false charges also, blaming me for tricking people.
I knew I was innocent, but I also knew it was extremely difficult to prove it. Two friends from church were also arrested.
After being taken in, I thought I would just be jailed until proven innocent, and that this would be soon. But little had I anticipated what awaited me behind the bars.
Every day for the first few days they would call my name and take me to a separate room where they would aggressively interrogate me. Kicking and punching me, they would laugh at me. They had thick sticks which they would use on me any time they wanted. They asked me questions like: where was I getting money from for converting people to Christianity? When I said I never received any money, they would just slap me or kick me. This process would continue for about half an hour.
"I dreaded every day of my life behind the bars and I was also questioning God." Gaurav
After these sessions I’d come back bruised and have to proceed with the daily chores assigned to me. Christians caught on the pretext of conversions would get the worst jobs – like cleaning toilets without proper cleaning equipment and all the other difficult and filthy tasks like cleaning the drains.
Afterwards was lunch. The food would be such that it would kill your appetite the moment you saw it. It seemed that they purposely made it distasteful and watery. After lunch all the inmates would work on their assigned chores the whole day.
There are some hard-core criminals inside the jail who have been there for years because of serious crimes they have committed. These people would receive instructions to especially bully and punish the Christians who had been arrested for doing conversions.
The very first day one of the bullies came shouting, “Who is the person who was caught for converting people to Christianity?” I tried to look away but someone gave my name and I was attacked by him. From then on, every day, that person would pick on me for something and punch me or kick me while I did nothing in return except beg him to leave me alone.
I dreaded every day of my life behind those bars and I was also questioning God. I didn’t know what to pray. I had two friends who were in a similar situation. All of us had lost hope and were disheartened.
However, something happened after a week. I met a pastor who was arrested for sharing God’s Word. He started speaking about God’s goodness as soon as I introduced myself. For the first time since my arrest I felt secure and peaceful inside my heart.
He also had a small New Testament. The moment he secretly gave it to me, I felt as if my troubles had melted away. Each day the pastor, my friends and I spent some time behind the bathroom praying when no one was looking. Those were the most joyous moments of the day and that strengthened me for all the difficulties and the hopeless situations ahead of me.
"He also had a small New Testament. The moment he gave it to me secretly, I felt as if my troubles had melted away." Gaurav
My family had filed for bail but the hearings in the court would always get cancelled (because of some poor excuse) or be postponed. I know they were deliberately doing it because of the influence of extremists in the area.
The daily devotion that was strengthening me spiritually lasted only for about a week as someone complained about us. But I had already been strengthened in faith.
One of my friends who was jailed with me would often cry before me. One day he told me he would commit suicide if God would not release him soon from the daily torture. It was a greatly difficult task to encourage him, but as I was doing it, I realised I was being encouraged more in my faith.
Soon after the secret devotion was exposed to the jail authorities, I was interrogated more and accused of converting people inside the jail. I was then locked-up separately.
Whilst locked away in isolation I had more time for communion with the Lord and I waited with patience praying and thanking the Lord for everything.
It was after four long months that I was able to meet with my wife. It had been an intense test of faith for her also, since we had been married for just two months when I was arrested. We cried tears of joy when we saw each other, but we wept even more when we got home together and thanked the Lord for his faithfulness in our lives.
"God kept reviving me and my wife and reassuring us of his promises." Gaurav
Proving our innocence took over three years in court. Meanwhile, my friends and I had no proper jobs. We were viewed as criminals by our community and no one wanted to associate with us. I worked hard on the little farming land we had and sought some temporary jobs here and there. But God is so faithful, we lacked nothing. He is so good; God provided people to pray for us and provide for us. Open Doors partners helped to cater for our needs and provided all the needed guidance in the court procedures.
God kept reviving me and my wife and reassuring us of His promises. Finally, my two friends and I were proved innocent. God taught us so much during these times. We learned to keep trusting Him for our every need. We thank the Lord for everyone all over the world who pray for people like us in India.
We especially thank Open Doors partners who prayed with us and helped us throughout these trying years of proving our innocence. They continuously encouraged us and provided all the practical help we needed.
*Name changed for security reasons
India is number 10 on the World Watch List, putting it among the hardest counrtries in the world to be a Christian. Invite your MP to save the date for the World Watch List launch on the 13 January 2021 where they can find out more about how to help persecuted Christians around the world.
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