Displaying items by tag: India
India is the most ethnically diverse nation on earth, with over 2,500 people groups, 22 official languages, and thousands of castes. It hosts most of the world’s Hindus and Muslims. The country traditionally maintains free speech and religious freedom, but these are being tested by Hindu nationalism; this mainly targets Muslims, but Christians also face discrimination, persecution and anti-conversion laws. Pray that India’s proud traditions of tolerance and freedom will continue and strengthen. Its churches have sent 100,000 people across India to communicate the gospel, start churches, and relieve suffering and injustice: resulting in tens of thousands of new congregations. Pray that this amazing missionary movement will transform India through Christ. However, this week the most urgent prayer need is for the millions displaced by floods in the north and 25 days of heatwave in densely-populated Delhi, where vast numbers are falling ill from heatstroke. Some have little access to clean water.
Praise God for the conviction of an Australian man who was found guilty of online sexual exploitation of children. He has been sentenced to 14.5 years in jail after paying almost a half a million dollars to exploit Filipino children sexually online. Please continue to pray for the fifteen victims rescued in this case, and that his conviction will bring them peace and comfort as they continue the road of healing. Meanwhile in India, a sex trafficker was sentenced to seven years in prison for exploiting women and girls, and a brothel was permanently closed in Mumbai, releasing the survivors of sex trafficking who are now receiving rehabilitation at an aftercare shelter.
Brutal heatwaves are causing millions of people to struggle. Temperatures hit a record 49.2C (120.5F) in Delhi in its fifth heatwave since March. Officials in many parts of India are asking people to take precautions, as temperatures are set to remain high and could cause health concerns for the elderly, infants and people with chronic diseases. Pray for farmers whose wheat harvests have been affected. Pray for the poor who have fewer ways of keeping cool and fewer options to stay inside, away from the heat. They have to work outside during the hottest hours. Pray for the children in rural areas where schools are in sheds with tin roofs - unbearable in the heat. There are places in India where the temperature itself may not be that high, but when combined with high humidity, life is very difficult. These record heatwaves are a dramatic example of climate change: see
Release International reports, ‘With all eyes on Russia’s assault on Ukraine, we will be watching closely to see how Russia is treating Christians of faiths other than Russian Orthodox.’ The USCIRF has long criticised the Taliban for their extremist policies. Its 2022 report warns, ‘Afghans who do not adhere to the Taliban’s harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and adherents of other faiths or beliefs are in grave danger. With the Taliban’s return to power, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan, and the overall human rights situation, have significantly deteriorated. Christian converts (and other minorities) practise their faith in hiding due to fear of reprisal and threats from the Taliban.’ Also religious persecution in India has taken a significant turn for the worse. In Nigeria there is an anti-Christian dimension to much of the violence which the government is failing to control.
Last week a Christian pastor was arrested on false charges of conversion activities in Uttar Pradesh and tortured for 24 hours. ‘I could not walk out of the police station. My two legs were swollen badly. There was so much pain. I could not move from one place to the other. Whenever there was a phone call about my arrest, the police increased the intensity of lashes with the belt and sticks. They beat me on three occasions while demanding I say “Jai Sriram” (Glory to Lord Rama).’ Local sources said the pastor and his family were visiting relatives and worshipping with them when a police van arrived after a neighbour complained. The police abused the family and arrested the pastor and his uncle. They took turns physically torturing them at the police station. At midnight his uncle was released when officers learned he was not a Christian.
A congregation of 100 Christians celebrating a Maundy Thursday service in Uttar Pradesh’s Fathepur District were threatened by a radical Hindu mob who surrounded the church and subsequently locked the doors. A First Information Report was lodged against 36 of the Christians on alleged forced conversion charges based on Uttar Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws after the mob’s leader, Himanshu Dikshit, complained that the church was working to convert Hindus to the Christian faith. Most of the congregation were freed from the locked church, but the 36 remained in jail until the wider Christian community raised their bail amount. One of the congregation said, ‘This is a perfect portrayal of Jesus’ suffering 2,000 years ago. We know Jesus endured, and we will.’
26 pastors have been explicitly named and included in written threats. A Christian leader from a nearby city said other Christians in the area have also received threats, but still gather for worship, saying, ‘This is God’s work and we will not deny Him. It is difficult, we must face these things. Please pray that we are not discouraged.’ Police have not taken action and are not interested in pursuing those who attack or kill believers. Sometimes the police side with the persecutors. Please pray for the 26 named pastors to be protected from harm. Their names can’t be shared for security reasons, but God knows them. Pray for all Christian leaders in India to receive God’s love and strength, and continue to be resilient in their faith and witness as the attacks against Christian leaders increase daily. Even if they don’t kill in all the cases, the injuries are serious and long-lasting.
As India’s election process gathers momentum, more Christians are being attacked. Haryana is the tenth state to pass an anti-conversion law preventing Christians from sharing their faith or Hindus from converting freely. A Haryana pastor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, ‘There has been a gradual shutdown of house churches in the region through threats and violence. The new law will be one more step to validate what they have been doing to Christians. The law can be misused to target innocent Christians.’ Opposition Congress members staged a walkout of the legislative assembly on 22 March in protest at the bill. They called anti-conversion measures ‘draconian’ and said its passing would be ‘a black day in Haryana’s history that will deepen the communal divide. The bill is in violation of the Indian constitution, which gives the right to profess, practice and propagate a person's religion’.
A 20-foot statue of Jesus that stood next to Gokunte village's St Francis Xavier's Church in Karnataka state for 18 years was demolished after local officials claimed it was built on land reserved for animal pasture. ‘We have prayed at the statue since 2004’, said a villager. ‘Despite asking the authorities to safely remove the statue and hand it over to us, it was destroyed and removed in a tractor.’ Father Lobo of the Catholic bishops' council said, ‘The video of the demolition was widely circulated, and Christians are alarmed and pained at such repeated acts by the pro-Hindu government machinery’. The bishops say dishonouring the Jesus statue is an example of growing attacks against Karnataka state Christians by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party. Open Doors warned, ‘The persecution of Christians in India is intensifying as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence’.
Islamist extremists are gaining ground in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso and Mali. Christians are bombed, killed, and kidnapped; schools are burnt. Jihadists have assaulted religious leaders and places of worship, and forced churches to close and meet in secret. The situation is set to grow worse as French troops withdraw from the area. Life for Christians in the Sahel region now resembles Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorists, IS fighters and Fulani militants are active. For all three, Christian communities are their prime targets. Afghanistan and India are also countries of great concern. Since the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan, Christians have faced greater risks of violence and betrayal by family and neighbours. Major food shortages will increase pressure on them. Indian Hindu militants are attacking Christians, and some states have anti-conversion laws to prevent Christian outreach among the Dalits where many are turning to Christ.