Immanuel Tirkey and about 100 villagers were watching the end of a Christian film in Bihar state, India, when a man stood up in front of the screen and began shouting, “Who is the operator here? Who is the operator here?”
Tirkey, one of five Christians who had organized the screening of “He Will Come Again” at the home of a Christian woman identified only as Anandi on Aug. 23 in the Kodaila area of Jamalpur village, Siwan District, rose and asked what was the matter. The man told him to reduce the volume, and Tirkey did so.
“He was again and again asking me to reduce the volume,” Tirkey told Morning Star News. “I told him that if I reduced it more, it will not be audible to anybody seated here, and that there are only 10 minutes left for the movie to end.”
The man left, but as the villagers were gathering their belongings to leave after the screening, at least 15 Hindu villagers arrived with swords, bamboo poles and wooden sticks, he said. Anandi’s family immediately rushed Tirkey and the other four Christian organizers of the screening into their house and locked the doors.
“The batch of Hindu villagers abused them in filthy language, scattered the congregation and besieged the house,” Tirkey said. “It was midnight, and soon a mob of 250 angry, upper-caste Hindus showed up with lathis [heavy sticks bound with iron] and steel rods.”
Pelting the house with stones and vandalizing a motorbike and a van, they banged on the doors and badgered Anandi’s family to hand the Christians over to them….“They were shouting at the family that they are supporting in converting Hindus to a foreign faith, and that we must be killed – ‘Release them to us. We will see their end,’ they kept shouting,” Tirkey said. “We did not know what to do.”
He called his native missions office and gave their Google Maps location via WhatsApp. Missions officials contacted Persecution Relief founder Shibu Thomas, who informed the police, and officers from Aandar police station arrived, Tirkey said.
The Christians urged police not to arrest anyone, emphatic that they wished to settle the matter by themselves, he said, adding that officers told them that they should have obtained permission from the village heads or police to show the film.
They told police that everyone watching the film came of their own free will and were not forced, adding that they had already showed it in 17 villages and not faced any opposition. The policemen told them that the mob outside was made up of upper-caste families, and that they were waiting to kill them, he said.
“More than an hour after police tried to calm them, they insisted that at least one of us should be handed to them, and only then would they let the other four leave the village,” Tirkey said. “They demanded that at least one of us should be beaten to death to teach us a lesson, and that it would be the end of Christianity in the village.”
Tirkey, who gave up his law practice to minister full-time among tribal villagers, said police told them to file a complaint, and that they would take the mob into custody.
“We told them that we came here only to spend some time in prayer and fellowship and not to get anybody arrested and not to put anybody in trouble,” he said. “When the police threatened the mob that they will be taken into custody for issuing death threats and vandalizing the vehicles, they fled away.” Their worried families in Patna were holding an all-night prayer vigil for their safe return, he said.