Pastor Vinod Kumar (42) from Sangoi village, Karnal District, in the north Indian state of Haryana, was reportedly beaten to death by a suspected criminal on 30 June. Sources said the attacker beat Pastor Kumar with a wooden roof truss and that he had recently been released on bail and has three court cases pending against him. The pastor leaves his wife, Sunita Kumar, and their 11-year-old daughter.
Sunita reported that after leading online worship at his house church, her husband received a call from the attacker’s brother to visit a sick villager. She said that as he was about to start his motorbike and leave the sick person’s home at about 8 pm he was struck by the attacker, who had been waiting for him.
“He attacked Vinod unaware from behind,” Sunita told Morning Star News. “He hit him hard on his head three times even after he fell from the motorbike. He hit him till his skull broke open.”
Senior Pastor Sompal Kalre, who led Pastor Kumar to Christ 25 years ago, said neighbours found the attacker standing with the wooden beam in his hand as Pastor Kumar lay dead. They immediately informed police.
“But before the police arrived, the villagers caught hold of the attacker and started hitting him,” Pastor Kalre said. “The police arrived in time and rescued the suspect from the hands of the angry villagers, or else the mob would have killed him.”
The pastor’s body was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival. Pastor Kalre said the pastor’s father and brothers, who are Hindus, cremated his body the same day, in accordance with Hindu rituals.
Police arrested the suspect and registered a First Information Report at Sadar police station in Karnal, 13 km from Sangoi, and a court remanded him to jail for two weeks. Sunita (pictured) said police charged the attacker’s father and brother for “concealing the plan and thus being partakers in the same”.
Sadar police station head officer Baljeet Singh told Morning Star News that the motive for the killing “was some trivial animosity, and further interrogation is underway.” However, Sunita said her husband had been talking about God with the suspect for two-and-a-half months, and that she believed this upset him. She said the attacker would occasionally visit Pastor Kumar in his shop, where the pastor would talk about God’s love, forgiveness and saving grace.
“He had also visited our home to get himself prayed for,” she said, adding that he had asked the pastor to pray for his deliverance from drug addiction. “I do not know what came upon him that he took such a drastic step of killing Vinod so brutally.”
Chandigarh pastor Reji K. George said he saw the attack as a clear case of anti-Christian persecution. “In fact, the villagers and the police entered into an argument when the police declared that it was because of personal animosity that the suspect killed Pastor Vinod,” he told Morning Star News. “The villagers retaliated and claimed that it was false.”
Sunita said her husband was the only Christian in his family and that his parents and four brothers were upset with him for following Christ. “Vinod was the second follower of Christ in the village, after Pastor Sompal, and was unmarried then,” she said. “He has faced opposition many times from his family and the villagers, but one could not imagine that something like this would happen with him.”
Sunita Kumar has said that she intends to continue her husband’s work. “I have resolved to carry on the work my husband was doing, and I want to live his dream out,” she said. “Vinod became a martyr for his faith, and I too will die for my faith.”
After Pastor Kumar became a Christian he went to train at a Bible college in Rewari and then returned home to minister in Sangoi, where he began a fellowship in 1999. He also ministered in 18 villages, and families from these villages attended the church that met in his house.
Village chief Angrez Singh Saini said local leaders and the entire village respected the pastor. He spoke of how gentle he was and said villagers addressed the pastor, a registered medical practitioner, as “doctor”.
“He has a good testimony and name here,” he said. “He was serving humanity. His life was such that he wronged nobody, nor did anybody dislike him. Doctor was so humble that he went home to home treating the sick, and if someone did not have money to pay him, he would treat the patient free of cost.”
Sunita said, “He had no enemies. The entire village was at his cremation, and they all wept for him.” According to Pastor Kalre, between seven hundred and eight hundred people attended the cremation ceremony.
Persecution Relief delegation visits family
Several members of staff from Church in Chains’ partner organisation Persecution Relief visited Sunita following her husband’s murder and are pictured with her and her daughter. (The delegation consisted of Rev Sunil Thomas, Pastor Shiju Philip, Pastor Joy Daniel and Anil Samuel.) Reporting that Sunita “is in shock & she is inconsolable”, Persecution Relief asked: “Church Pray for the family”.
(Morning Star News, Persecution Relief)