by Frances Martel
Churchgoers in Tamil Nadu, India, are protesting local officials after police ruled the death of Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy – found hanging in the church with visible signs of beatings – a “suicide.”
Periyaswamy had faced repeated death threats from Hindu nationalists who objected to his effectiveness in converting locals to Christianity, according to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which also advocates for persecuted Christians in India.
Reports have identified Periyaswamy as both an “independent” and “Pentecostal” Christian.
BPCA quotes a member of Periyaswamy’s congregation, who told the organization that there was evidence the pastor had been tortured. “His body was later hung up to be found by parishioners, in the killers’ attempt to remove a prominent pastor and terrify his parishioners,” the witness said. The pastor’s body reportedly showed “bruises and welts” inconsistent with a simple suicide hanging, though police have branded the case as such.
Another parishioner told the advocacy group that, if the act was meant to scare Christians in the area, it had succeeded.