India has witnessed an explosive growth of Christian believers among their population. Predictably, such changes come with resistance.
The resistance can lead to a range of responses from open violence (like the events that led to the martyrdom of this writer’s personal friend Pastor Samuel Nayak, who was killed by a violent mob in his own ancestral village) to the simple criminalization of the Christian message itself.
In India, Christ has been delivering on his promise that He will build his Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
For the second year in a row, Open Doors ranks India 10th on the list of countries where it’s most challenging to be a Christian. “But even [amid] that persecution, God grows and strengthens his Church,” says David Reeves, President and CEO of unfoldingWord.
The resourcing ministry is celebrating unexpected good news from church planting partners in India.
“During 2020 – the COVID year – they’ve planted more churches than all the 25 years of their ministry work there,” Reeves says.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people coming to Christ, and house churches are popping up all over the place because of that.” —ChristianNews
There have been a number of anti-Christian uprising and crackdowns since the turn of the century, some — like the one that led to the death of Pastor Samuel — have been bloody.
The opposition itself is built around one central allegation: that Christians have somehow ‘forced’ the conversions of the locals. In response, when mobs attack one of the demands they make (which includes the murder of pastor Samuel) is that they ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism. In Samuel’s instance, he was from a Christian family and had never once been Hindu.
More than that, Christianity, at its very core, is built on a foundation of faith, not works. If anyone were foolish enough to attempt forced conversions, you might gain followers of a sect, but definitionally that sect could not be authentically called Christian. As Jesus himself said, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’
None of that has stopped pastors in India from being arrested on account of their faith because, as you see, even through the pandemic they have remained effective at sharing the gospel, which has resulted in changed lives.
Yesterday, two Christian pastors were jailed on alleged forced conversion charges in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. A mob of radical Hindu nationalists broke into the worship hall in Rajouti village and assaulted the congregation during Sunday worship. During the chaos created by the nationalists, nearly 15 policemen came into the church and arrested the pastor and a member of his congregation. The two Christians were later sent to Jaspur jail.
Sources reaching out to International Christian Concern describe the immense pressure by the leaders of right-wing groups on Christians to reconvert to Hinduism. When Christians in the village refused to recant their faith, the mob attacked the Sunday gathering and disrupted the worship service. Prior to the attack, a false complaint of illegal conversion activities was reported to the police. The police arrested the two pastors and filed the First Information Report (FIR), accusing the pastors of being in breach of the state anti-conversion law. The pastors oversee a congregation of 25 Christian families that regularly gather in a makeshift hall for worship. Despite the constant harassment by radical Hindu groups, these families stand strong in their faith against the threats and abuses from the Hindu nationalists.
The state BJP president Vishnudev Sai reportedly belonged to the same village of Rajouti where the attack took place. His party’s failure to bring the 25 Christian families back to Hinduism may have led to him using his leverage with the police to attack the believers with impunity. Social boycotts, disruption of worship and service, violent assaults, and imprisonment of Pastors and Christians are commonplace. This trend escalated recently when the extreme right-wing groups openly gave hate speeches in their rallies and public meetings. We pray for the safety and resilience of our fellow Christians in India. —InternationalChristianConcern
This reaction isn’t just coming from Hindus, either. The Communist Maoists have a history of violence, too.
Only a few days before that mob violence, a Christian in that same state was ‘slashed and shot to death’ because he didn’t cave to their pressure to abandon the ministry.
Six masked men in central India this month killed one of 22 Christians a Maoist group had warned to “leave the pastorship,” sources said.
Pastor Yalam Shankar was slashed and shot to death the evening of March 17 outside his home in Angampalli village, Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh state in front of his wife and daughter-in-law, relatives said. They said he was in his early 50s. — ChristianNewsNet
Life over in India looks something like what we’ve seen in the Book of Acts. The gospel is going forward, people are receiving it with joy, local authorities are getting angry and taking it out on the preachers.
We promised a hard question — here it is.
It’s directed at Christians here in the West where we aren’t seeing anything NEAR that level of persecution, at least not yet.
Have you been seeing gospel growth here the way they did there?
If local authorities tried to accuse your church of ‘forced conversions’ during the last couple of years, could they actually find any new converts to back up their accusation? Or would they just see people who have either been there their whole lives or have routinely drifted from one church to another every time the guy in the pulpit said something that pinched their flesh or exposed their idols?
It’s one thing to feel compassion and pity for faithful witnesses abroad who are suffering in the name of Christ.
It’s quite another to wake up to the possibility that they pity us for being so insufferably comfortable and complacent. Remember that one church Jesus singled out for their comfort and indifference in Revelation?
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Of course, he couldn’t possibly mean any of us, could He?
Psalms of War: Prayers That Literally Kick Ass is a collection, from the book of Psalms, regarding how David rolled in prayer. I bet you haven’t heard these read, prayed, or sung in church against our formidable enemies — and therein lies the Church’s problem. We’re not using the spiritual weapons God gave us to waylay the powers of darkness. It might be time to dust them off and offer ‘em up if you’re truly concerned about the state of Christ’s Church and of our nation.
Also included in this book, Psalms of War, are reproductions of the author’s original art from his Biblical Badass Series of oil paintings.
This is a great gift for the prayer warriors. Real. Raw. Relevant.