|(Image courtesy Mission India)|
Orissa is one out of five states in India that has an active anti-conversion law. The violence that exploded between Hindus and Christians in August of 2008 has left bleeding wounds, and hostility remains. As more Indians convert to Christianity, attacks increase.
“Who you worship in India is a big deal,” says Dave Stravers, president of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. “The testimony of believers to Jesus is the key factor here.”
Recently, a man was violently assaulted for distributing tracts. He was dragged to the police and told to stop.
In another village, a young man witnessed to four of his friends who then came to Christ. The five young men, mostly teenagers, met for regular prayer meetings. One day, a large group of Hindu activists interrupted their prayer by breaking down the door and beating them.
“Often the persecutors result to violence,” Straver says. “Almost every worker at some point gets physically attacked, beaten up. So we pray for the miracle of great courage.”
These stories echo the acts of genocide in 2008. “That was the typical reaction years ago, but now the new stories we are hearing are actually more encouraging,” says Stravers.
He shares a story of a Mission India church planter in a small village. Four families out of 72 came to Christ as Stravers ministered to them, and the rest of the villagers became terrified. They believed that Shiva, their village god, would punish the whole village because of these four families. Fear for their crops and their health caused great hostility.
The village leaders ordered the families to stop following Christ, but they refused. For the time being, the Christian families are meeting outside of the village to worship.
Members of Mission India are confident that as the fear of Shiva abates, more families will come to Christ in that village. The steadfastness of those four families is very encouraging, and they continue to witness to their neighbors.
Often pride of heritage and culture can be a barrier for the Gospel. Indians are extremely proud of their background, and their resistance to the Gospel can increase when it is presented by a foreigner.
“The fact that there are very few foreign workers in India for the past 30 years is actually positive,” says Stravers. “We try to help the workers in India in a way that does not give a foreign face to the Gospel.”
Poverty is also a barrier for new Christians. Most Christians in India are first generation and do not have great understanding of skills in ministry. They need access to Bibles and other materials that could aid in witnessing. They also would benefit from training. To see how you can help, click here.
Pray that new believers and the workers placed in India will be encouraged. They know that they will face persecution and resistance. Pray for courage and strength, and that they would look to the eternal significance of their work. Pray that the Gospel will continue to spread in India despite the restrictions and hostility toward it.