No Anti-Christian Motive Seen in Killing of Pastor in India

Questions remain in murder of ministry leader in Jharkhand state.

Jharkhand state, India. (Wikipedia)

Jharkhand state, India. (Wikipedia)

UDAIPUR, India (Morning Star News) – The man who admitted to killing the Rev. Abraham Biswas Surin in northeastern India this month appears to have had no religious motive, sources said.

In Jharkhand state, where Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians has become commonplace, Christian organizations mounted protests calling for a quick and impartial investigation into the killing of Surin after the 64-year-old pastor’s mutilated body was found on May 6. His throat was cut.

Mohammad Hussain, who was arrested from his home less than two weeks after the pastor’s body was found, reportedly said he killed him because of the Christian leader’s continuous demands that he repay him a $164 loan.

“So far, we do not see any angle of persecution to the incident here related to either the pastor’s religious or tribal identity,” a local Christian leader who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “It seems to be more of a personal issue.”

Surin, of Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church, left his house in Khunti on May 5 to go to Ranchi, supposedly to attend a meeting. His body was found in drainage area under a railway bridge in Rourkela, in neighboring Odisha state, around 120 miles away. Near his body police found a bloodstained dawali, an axe-like weapon with long handle, that was used to slash his throat. There were other marks of injury on his chin and head, suggesting that he was beaten before being murdered.

Personal articles such as a ring, mobile phone and wallet remained intact, leading authorities initially to rule out robbery as a motive.

Witnesses reportedly said they saw Surin on May 5 near the Rourkela railway station at around 10 p.m., as he apparently had arrived by train from Hatia, Jharkhand, in the company of a tall man. Closed Circuit TV cameras show him in the presence of the figure, whom relatives seeing the footage could not identify, and police have confirmed that the “tall man” accompanying the pastor was Hussain.

Key questions remain unanswered. The area Christian leader said Surin managed Kindernothilfe (KNH) hostels, a German initiative that works for needy children in India.

“He withdrew $745 on the day he was killed,” he said. “Police have not yet revealed whether the money has been recovered or not.”

Also, telephone records indicated the pastor received about 40 calls from Hussain in the prior month, he said.

“If the pastor was the one pestering him for money, why would this man call him?” he said.

Traumatized family members were reluctant to believe that someone would kill Surin for such a meager debt. They are also unaware of the pastor receiving any threats.

The National Christian Forum (Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh) organized silent processions on May 11 in Khunti after news of the pastor’s murder hit media. The peaceful rally demanded quick and impartial probe into the murder of Surin. Hussain was arrested less than a week later.

A recent rash of attacks by Hindu radicals have left Christians in Jharkhand in perpetual fear and suspicion of persecution. In June 2015, Hindu nationalists banished five Christian families from Kullu village, about 30 miles from Ranchi, the state capital. In September of last year, more than 15 Hindu extremists, with axes, spades, guns and clubs, entered a house where more than 30 Christians had gathered and mercilessly beat them.

Khunti has the highest tribal population in Jharkhand, 73.3 percent of its people. The 2011 census shows 26.2 of Jharkhand’s population is tribal, many of whom are turning to Christianity, infuriating Hindu extremists.

Well known and respected in and around Khunti, Surin was actively engaged in caring for impoverished children. He supervised four hostels that offered education, boarding and lodging to underprivileged children. He is survived by a wife and five sons.

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