Though there are around the same number of Christians in India as there are people in the UK, with 67.4 million Christians, it’s still less than five per cent of the population of India, which is almost 1.4 billion people.
Christians in India are struck down not once but twice. As well as the devastating pandemic, believers face ongoing persecution. Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus, and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam.
They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and even blamed for bad luck in their communities. These believers are often physically attacked and sometimes killed, as well as being under constant pressure from their family and community to return to Hinduism. If they do not ‘reconvert’, they may be boycotted by their community, with a devastating effect on their ability to earn income. Many believers are isolated and don’t know any other Christians.
Christians are persecuted in all areas of public and private life, and anti-conversion laws (currently in nine states, with more considering adoption) are abused to harass and intimidate Christians.
“I felt that today we would not be spared.”Vinita
Vinita (name changed) was praying with her pastor when a group of Hindu extremists burst into her home, calling "Where are the Christians? We don’t want Christians here!”
“Eight or nine men from the neighbourhood barged into the house,” remembers Vinita. “They were armed with rods in their hands. For almost 30 minutes they were beating us. They were stamping on us and hitting us. We were falling down and they would pick us up again, and continue the attack. I felt that today we would not be spared."
When they got to hospital, they were denied medical care - just because of their faith. Thankfully, Open Doors partners were able to help them move to another hospital, as well as paying medical bills and helping with legal assistance.
“I am thankful to God for blessing us immensely,” says Vinita. “And to those people who have helped me, I would like to give thanks.”
The pandemic has brought further challenges. In April 2021, the country recorded its highest daily figure for deaths as well as a global high for daily Covid-19 cases. Shortages of oxygen and medicines are rampant, even forcing some people to search for supplies of oxygen on the black market where prices are very high. It means the poor – including many Christians – are at grave risk of not getting access to vital care. Many have lost their businesses - Vinita's livelihood was severely affected by the pandemic.
Persecution in India has increased significantly over the past five years, and has now remained relatively unchanged for the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic has offered a new weapon for persecutors, though, and Christians are often deliberately overlooked when official Covid-19 food and aid is distributed. This has left many desperate for food, particularly since many Christians are from the Dalit caste and thus very poor, and have lost their sources of income this year.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in India. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost. Christians in India are struck down but not destroyed.
Open Doors works through local church partners to strengthen the Indian church through providing emergency aid, persecution survival training, Bibles, livelihood and community development, advocacy support and legal training.
Lord, thank You that faith is growing in India despite so much opposition faced by Christians in public and private life. Please keep bringing new believers to faith, and give strength and resilience to Christians from a Hindu background. Frustrate the plans of Hindu extremists who want to rid the country of other faiths, and change the hearts of those in power. Amen.
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Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.