A 50-year-old Christian convert in a remote town in India died last month after he and his wife were reportedly forced to stand in a freezing pond for 17 hours because of their faith.
Residents of the tribal village of Kubuaa were upset when, 10 years ago, Bartu Urawn and his family abandoned the native religion — Sarna Dharam — and became Christians, according to Global Christian News.
As punishment for the family's unwillingness to denounce Jesus Christ, villagers forced Bartu Urawn and his wife into the freezing pond for more than half a day. Bartu Urawn's son, Beneswar, told the outlet that his parents were immersed in the water from around 5 p.m. until 10 a.m. the following day.
After suffering two paralytic attacks that caused major nerve damage, Bartu Urawn died Jan. 20.
"All throughout the night, they were in the cold water shivering and I, along with 15 to 20 villagers, were witness to the brutality," Beneswar Urawn said. "The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold. He reiterated every time, 'I will not deny Christ. ... I will continue to believe until my last breath.'"
Other families also converted to Christianity but ultimately renounced their faith and rejoined the tribal religion, according to the Christian Post:
Beneswar explained that his family was not the only one in the village that embraced Christianity over 10 years ago, as nine other families also decided to put their faith in Christ. But amid constant demands that the families return to the indigenous religion, seven of the families caved to threats and renounced Christ.
As a majority of families converted back to the tribal religion, pressure increased on the Urawn family. Beneswar said the village came together like a mob, attacked his family, locked them inside their home for hours and soiled the family's drinking water.
Bartu Urawn, GCN reported, was attacked by villagers for the past three years because of his faith. It reached a boiling point last year, when a group abducted him and forced him to attend one of their tribal worship services.
During the service, an animal was sacrificed and the villagers forced Bartu Urawn to eat a portion of the animal and drink fermented liquor. "They told my father that now the demons will not let him live," Beneswar Urawn said.
When Bartu Urawn and his wife refused to deny their Christian faith, the angry villagers tied him and his wife up and forced them into the frigid water.
"It was last year in winter when the cruel villagers put my mother and father in cold water at five in the evening until 10 [the] next day morning," Beneswar Urawn recalled. "I was away and on my return, they made me sit outside the pond and watch my parents die."
After subjecting them to the cold water all night, the mob of villagers reportedly began beating the Christian couple. Beneswar Urawn's mother survived the assault, his father did not.
And, rather than giving him the proper burial and prayer service on their private property, as they requested, Beneswar Urawn and his mother were forced to honor tribal tradition, which requires the wife to serve food to the entire village.
Beneswar Urawn and four other Christians were made to walk six miles to take the body to distant government land in order to perform a funeral.
Beneswar Urawn said the police "did nothing" about his father's death, but invited villagers to "peace talks" at the beginning of this month, when they instructed villagers not to torment the Urawn family over their religion because it is a "personal matter."
According to the 2017 World Watch List from Open Doors, a non-governmental organization aiding persecuted Christians around the world, India ranks No. 15 in the list of 50 countries with the worst record on Christian persecution.
Open Doors classifies the persecution level as "very high" in India and says Christians are "regularly attacked by radical Hindus" in the country.
"The level of impunity has gone up markedly, with communities of converts to Christianity from Hinduism bearing the brunt of the persecution," the Open Doors statement reads. "They are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs, and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed."