India: unrelenting persecution
-- a call to pray for the church in India
By Elizabeth Kendal
-- Persecution of the Church
in India is unrelenting, primarily due to the Hindu
nationalists' incitement of racial and religious
hatred; the impunity afforded to violent
persecutors; and the authorities' lack of political
will. The following incidents were recorded by the
Evangelical Fellowship of India. They are typical --
and the tip of the iceberg.
On 24 September, 12 Hindu extremists disrupted a prayer meeting in Kandhamal, Orissa, verbally abusing the believers and chasing them out into the forest. When junior pastor Mantu Nayak tripped and fell, the Hindus beat him mercilessly, leaving him with head injuries and fractures in both arms.
On 11 September police in Kashganj, Uttar Pradesh, accused Christians of 'forcible conversions'. The next day, a mob of armed Hindus arrived and threatened the believers, demanding they 'return' to Hinduism. Reacting against news of an impending Christian inter-caste marriage, the Hindus drove the bride-to-be and her family out of the area. On 7 September Pastor John Pargy was distributing gospel tracts quietly when he was accused of insulting Hinduism. He was then assaulted and arrested. On 4 September Pastor Anand Nirala was arrested in Jangir Champa, Chhattisgarh, after Hindus accused him of 'forced' conversions, insulting Hindu deities and disturbing social harmony. On 1 September Hindu extremists in Balod, Chhattisgarh, stoned a ch urch and beat the pastor and believers. The next day, a 600-strong mob returned and terrorised the believers, eventually driving them from their homes. On 26 August a large mob of Hindu extremists burst into a prayer meeting in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, and violently attacked the believers, leaving two Christians seriously injured. Accusing the believers of 'forced conversions', the Hindus rampaged through the village. One local Christian, Edwin Raj, was beaten to death.
On 29 August the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) had a minor and partial victory when the High Court of Himachal Pradesh struck out one section of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (HPFR Act), a law that regulates conversions. The judge struck out section 4, which mandated that anyone intending to change their religion must inform the district administration 30 days before conversion takes place -- essentially to obtain permission -- or else face a fine. Whilst the judge ruled that section 4 violated a person's right to privacy, he did not agree with the EFI that the HPFR Act, which criminalises religious 'force', 'fraud' and 'inducement', violated the constitutional right to religious freedom. ['Force', 'fraud' and 'inducement' are defined in a way that effectively criminalises virtually all Christian witness. In India, 'freedom of religion' is essentially understood as freedom from religious 'interference'.]
According to the High Court, freedom of religion must be subject to the interests of public law and order. As such, though Christians are said to have full rights, in practice conversions and Christian witness must be restricted if they lead to Hindu rioting. This is exactly the same backward thinking involved in Islamic blasphemy legislation. Confident they will be appeased, religious dictators incite violence, blame the victim and extract concessions. Though governments might find appeasement expedient in the short term, in the long term it is disastrous as it legitimises intolerance, justifies violence and fuels persecution.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --
- for God to grace India
with awakening, so that Indians will see they
are being fed lies and deprived of religious
freedom by religious dictators out to perpetuate
their own caste privilege.
'. . . let justice roll down like waters, and
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'
(Amos 5:24 ESV)
- for God to grace the
Indian government with discernment, conviction
and courage to deal with Hindu nationalist
propaganda before it devours the nation.
- that the Church will
continue to grow in spite of repression and
violent persecution, as God adds to her number
daily those who are being saved.
- that the LORD of hosts will be a protective shield and strong, safe fortress to every Indian believer, particularly those pastors and evangelists who risk life and liberty to share the Gospel and serve the people in the name of Jesus.
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