A Christian community in Central India has lost their beloved pastor after he was brutally murdered by masked men on Thursday.

A Christian pastor by the name of Yalam Shankar who lived in the Angampalli village, Bijhapur district of Chhattisgarh state in Central India was murdered on Thursday. Reports said that a group of five men wearing masks entered his home and dragged the 50 year old pastor outside, where he was stabbed to death. His body was taken to the coroner's office, where his remains were handed over to family members.

International Christian Concern reported that according to local sources, Shankar served as a senior pastor at Bastar for Christ Movement (BCM) Church in Angampalli. He was also a former sarpanch of the village, where he was very well-liked. But Christians like the pastor had faced intense persecution in the area.

"Christians in this area have been facing intense opposition from the radical Hindu nationalists," a local Christian who spoke under the condition of anonymity reported. "Several times Pastor Shankar defended Christians from radical Hindu nationalists, and that could be the reason for this extreme form of persecution of killing."

Sources reported that days before the pastor who defended Christians against Hindu nationalists was murdered, Shankar was already threatened by local radicals if he continued to preach Christianity in the village. Indian Christians continue to face harsh persecution as a religious minority in the country, especially in the face of Hindu nationalists.

"Christians are being suppressed, discriminated against and persecuted at rising levels like never before in India," ICC's advocacy director Matias Perttula told the New York Times in December 2021. "And the attackers run free, every time."

According to CBN News, a group of eight individuals, including women, invaded Pastor Rakesh Babu's home in Uttar Pradesh state's Vyaspur village, Chandauli District in January. The attackers threw the pastor to the ground and proceeded to beat him up using wooden sticks and even tried to choke him. The assailants also attempted to kill his wife by slitting her throat.

The December report from NYT revealed that village elders in Bilawar Kalan, Madhya Pradesh established a $130 fine for any family that allows Christians into their homes. The community is also forcing Christian families to convert to Hinduism, warning them that if they don't, they would be socially boycotted. Sukh Lal Kumre, a threadbare farmer and a Christian, lamented, "They want to remove us from society."

Buit Mesh Lal Chanchal, who is also one of the village's top members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, explained, "We are doing this to coerce them back to society. If we didn't intervene, they would have converted this whole area by now."

The ostracization does not end there. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that anti-Christian hate crimes have doubled since 2014 and so have "economic pincer movements." Hindu nationalist lawyers and activists have taken legal action against Christian charities, filing complaints against them through an organization called the Legal Rights Observatory. The result is that the Christian charities are prevented from accessing funds or even shut down. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi remains indifferent to the increasing Christian persecution in his country.