Hindu radicals in the area had warned him to leave. Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy and his church were attracting a lower caste of people to the area, and that was unacceptable to the high-caste villagers living nearby. “Leave this village, or else we will make life difficult for you,” they had told him. But Periyaswamy knew the risks of serving 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 when he was 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, India. Unsurprisingly, he was not welcomed by local Hindu activists. Radical Hindus harassed him nearly every Sunday, and in 2017 they even beat him. Still, Periyaswamy urged his congregation to try to live peacefully with their neighbors.
Then, on the morning of January 20, 2018, members of Periyaswamy’s congregation discovered his body hanging from the ceiling of his
home. Upon closer investigation, it was apparent that the unmarried
pastor had been murdered and then hanged in order to make it look like
Persecution at the hands of radical Hindus has intensified since the
2014 election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has ties to the Hindu
nationalist 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 live 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 are leading Hindus
to Christ, undeterred by threats and beatings intended to stop their witnessing. Radicals are enraged when Hindus turn to Christ, disrupting
their plans for a purely Hindu nation. Despite this, Christians continue
to courageously and faithfully share the gospel in India, seeing many
Hindus turn to Christ.
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
This story is an excerpt from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs. You can get your own copy free with any donation to The Voice of the Martyrs.