Radical Hindus with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—wielding machetes, swords, knives, iron bars, and sticks—attacked Joseph W. Cooper, 67, and five other Christians as they walked along a rice paddy embankment on January 13.

They were leaving a Friends of Bible Church convention outside the capital city of Trivandrum in the southwestern state of Kerala. Cooper, from New Castle, Pennsylvania, required hospital treatment for machete cuts in his right palm, arm, and torso.

The assailants also attacked pastor Benson K. Sam, his wife, Annie, and their children Joy, Jeff, and Judith. At one point, Sam covered Cooper's body with his own to shield him from the blows.

Attackers struck Sam in the head and beat his wife and one daughter until they were unconscious. Villagers finally came to their aid, and the assailants fled. The police have arrested 11 members of the rss so far in connection with the attack.

The assault, though, was just the beginning of problems for Cooper, bishop of India for the New Jerusalem Universal Church, a small Pentecostal denomination headquartered in Marietta, Ohio. Hindu activists accused Cooper of violating the terms of his tourist visa by preaching at a church meeting. Since 1995 the government has banned foreigners on student or tourist visas from speaking at religious events. Hindu militants sought to bring criminal charges.

A lower court adjourned the case, but the local police department served Cooper with orders to leave the country.

Discharged from the Kerala Institute of Medical Science, he left on a January 22 Delta Airlines flight.

Indian Christian leaders say the attack on a visiting Christian represents a dangerous escalation in interreligious tensions.

Campaign of terror


The Vishwa Hindu Parishad ...

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