RLPB 463. India: A Dangerous Place for Christians
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 463 | Wed 11 Jul 2018
INDIA: A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR CHRISTIANS
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
The Hindu concepts of caste (racism by other means) and karma (a spiritual principle which teaches that a person’s lot in life is determined by actions in their past life and is therefore a form of justice) have long ensured India remains one of the world’s most cruel and inequitable societies. Whilst India’s poor and downtrodden see egalitarian Christianity as liberating and uplifting, its wealthy high caste Hindus view Christianity as a threat to their power and privilege. Today, the rise of Hindu nationalism — which exploits religion for political gain and establishes religious apartheid — has turned India into one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, most of whom are poor and downtrodden.
Not only are Hindu nationalists recruiting more and more Hindus (including police and other officials) into Hindu nationalist activism and vigilantism, but they are also exploiting tensions over religious conversions to bring tribal animists on-side and incite them against tribal Christians. Eight states have enacted laws that prohibit the procurement of conversions through force, coercion, allurement or fraud. Hostile elements wield these laws as weapons against witnessing Christians. As anti-Christian hostility has risen, violent persecution with impunity has become the order of the day.
CHURCH ATTACKS: On Monday 2 July a mob of some 20 armed militants belonging to the Yuva Vahini (HYV), a Hindu nationalist youth militia, attacked Yeshu Darbar Church in Pratapgarh District, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where Christians comprise a mere 0.3 percent of the population. A prayer meeting — which included women and children — was underway at the time. In what must have been a terrifying ordeal, eight believers sustained wounds that required medical treatment. Church furniture, sound systems, motorbikes, hymn books and Bibles were among the property damaged. A First Issue Report was registered against the attackers.
EXPULSIONS: On Tuesday 5 June ten Christian families were expelled from their homes in Pahli Village, Latehar District, in the north-east state of Jharkhand, where Christians comprise 6 percent of the population. They had been summoned to a village meeting in which Hindu nationalists ordered them to renounce their faith or face exile. When they refused to renounce Christ, the believers were beaten and driven from the village. They cannot return home as the local authorities are unwilling or unable to help them. These families are now homeless and living in fear of the Hindu nationalists. Violence against Christians has escalated in Jharkhand since anti-conversion legislation was enacted in September 2017 [see RLPB 418 (9 Aug 2017)]. According to the local pastor, Rajdev Toppo, it has become ‘increasingly difficult to serve as a pastor in Latehar. ‘On a daily basis, I am threatened and ridiculed for teaching Christians the word of God.’ He also confirmed that the ‘local government has not been helpful’.
FALSE ACCUSATIONS: ANTI-CONVERSION LAW AS WEAPON
(1) On Tuesday 22 May Evangelist Sahiram Nayak (34), Pastor Vijender Singh (32) and Pastor Kasiram Meghwal (46), quietly distributed Christian literature and New Testaments among families of village 16 BD in the Khajuwala area of Bikaner District, in the north-western state of Rajasthan, where Christians comprise 0.4 percent of the population. Afterwards, Kaku Singh invited the believers to his home in nearby village 14 BD, telling them that his wife was suffering from cancer. After sharing the Gospel and praying over Singh’s wife, the believers were about to leave when they were attacked by an 80-strong Hindu mob. Though complicit in the plot, Kaku Singh called the police to prevent the Christians from being killed. Kaku Singh and another man then falsely accused the believers of trying to forcibly convert them; which resulted in the believers being arrested.
No sooner had they been released on bail when fresh allegations were laid. The Hindus falsely accused the believers of visiting them on Sunday 20 May at which time they allegedly offered large sums of money in the hope of alluring them to convert. Consequently, the three believers were immediately re-arrested. Pastor Singh told Morning Star News, ‘We wept before the Lord, but we never abandoned our faith.’ The men were released on bail on 29 May, but not before they had witnessed to inmates, including murderers. On Sunday 27 May they even held a worship service inside the prison. The evangelists faced court on 5 and 30 June. Their trial continues, even though all three believers can prove they did not visit the Khajuwala area that day. [For more details, see Morning Star News.]
(2) On Saturday 7 July 16 members of a group of 25 young volunteer evangelists from Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB) were arrested in Jharkhand’s Dumka District. The group, which had entered the district on Thursday 5 July, had been detained by angry locals and held overnight before being taken away by police on Friday. The seven members released on Saturday were women and minors. According to the complainants, the evangelists had invaded with loudspeakers and disparaged the religion of local animists — including saying Satan resides in their temples — all in an effort to force people to convert to Christianity. FMPB denies this, saying all their volunteer evangelists are trained in proper procedures. According to FMPB, all the group did was lead an open service of prayer and worship in the home of the sole believing family in Phulpahari Village, and this was enough to enrage villagers. The 16 evangelists arrested have been imprisoned in Dumka Central Jail. [For more details see World Watch Monitor.]
For more disturbing and inspiring stories of persecution, courage, endurance and suffering in the Indian Church, see Morning Star News, South Asia/India.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
* the Holy Spirit will guide India’s mission-focused Church in strategies for effective witness, enabling them to be blameless — ‘wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’ — as they share the Good News of Jesus Christ in needy communities.
* the Holy Spirit will give India’s courageous evangelists peace of heart, presence of mind and words to say as they encounter hostility and as they testify before police, judges and local officials. (See Matthew 10:16-33)
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Jesus, in Matthew 5:11,12 ESV)
* the Spirit of God would stir up indignation in the ‘international community’ so that the racism inherent in the Hindu caste system and the religious apartheid inherent in Hindu nationalism, will no longer be tolerated by governments and businesses that wield influence … for nothing will change while impunity reigns.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
INDIA IS A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR CHRISTIANS
Hindu nationalism — which exploits religion for political gain and establishes religious apartheid — makes India one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. Because India’s Christians are mostly poor and downtrodden, they are particularly vulnerable. Fuelled by Hindu nationalist ideologues and legitimised by repressive anti-conversion laws, anti-Christian hostility has escalated to the point that violent persecution with impunity has become the order of the day. Many Indian Christians face violence and exile. Worship and prayer meetings — be they in official buildings or private homes — are routinely attacked. Pastors and evangelists — men, women and youths — are routinely beaten, falsely accused and arrested for witnessing, worshiping or even praying. Impunity is a problem domestically and internationally; the global silence is deafening. Please pray for change.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).