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by Mark Ellis, Assist News Service

A showing of the Jesus Film in northern India was broken up by at least 35 Hindu extremists who attacked the film crew and caused viewers to flee the scene.

When the film showing was going on, around 35-40 men attacked them, tearing up the screen and beating up people, said George Ninan, a South Asia director for Campus Crusade for Christ. In recent years, militant groups have arisen that trumpet a Hindu race and culture, urging that Hinduism be recognized as the official state religion. They attack both Muslims and Christians because they are said to follow a foreign religion.

The film teamone of 900 operating in different parts of Indiawas led by Karan Bahadur, who suffered the brunt of the attack. He could not escape and was badly beaten and became unconscious, Ninan said. Bahadur was taken captive, tortured, and questioned in detail about his family and work.

The following night he was taken to some railroad tracks nearby and told to run for his life. Nursing wounds from the beating, he ran as far as his strength allowed, then hid himself in bushes that lined the track.

The next morning Bahadur jumped aboard a slow-moving freight train, then eventually made his way by truck to Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

When the film crew complained to local police, they refused to register a complaint. However, police did recover some of the film equipment, which was thrown into a school compound. The generator used to supply power for the equipment is still missing.

Praise God there was no serious injury to our staff and that we could get the projector back and the film, Ninan said. Ninan, on staff with Campus Crusade since 1971, prays daily for the gospel to break through in India.

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Uttar Pradesh state in northern India is home to 167 million people. Less than one percent knows Jesus Christ.

In 1997, Father Thomas, a Jesuit priest from Belgium, was killed by Hindu nationalists disguised as police officers. The same year, another priest was severely beaten and paraded naked through the streets by militantsall within view of the police, according to Freedom House in Washington D.C.

Two years later, an Australian missionary and his two sons were burned to death in their van by Hindu extremists. Over 100 incidents of violence have been documented against Christians since 1998, including the rape of four nuns and one nun shot in the face. Many Christians were injured, killed or left homeless by such attacks.

George Ninan, the Crusade director, remains hopeful about India, despite its unusual obstacles to the Christian faith. Most of the ministries are seeing results, he says. Please continue to pray for their protection.