India (MNN) ― This week, thousands of Christians marked the third anniversary of the mass violence in Orissa State, India.
During the pogrom, Hindu extremists brutally murdered at least 100 Christians, raped and pillaged 300 houses of worship and burned 5,000 homes. The riots also led to the displacement of over 56,000 Christians.
Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says while the buildings are no longer ablaze, the scars remain. "The overt violence is not continuing, except now in isolated cases. In several of the places, the villages are still empty. People have not returned to their homes; they're permanent refugees because it's just not safe for them to go back."
Hindu nationalists named the anniversary of the attacks (which began August 23, 2008) as the day of "Protection of Religion." They handed out leaflets that reminded Hindus that their faith is under attack by Christians. Stravers says the plan to eliminate Christians is not surprising. "Over the last year, persecution has probably worsened from what it was just a couple of years ago all over the country. We feel that it's a confirmation of all the reports that we hear from all over India of people coming to Christ."
These nationals represent a militant action in a secular country, but it's not one to be discounted, says Stravers. "It's a small minority of people who are concerned that, for the first time in history, their traditional religious beliefs are being challenged. People are getting new hope. They're hearing the good news about Jesus and they're open."
According to Stravers, the same group is trying to get the anti-conversion laws implemented in more than the half dozen states that already have them. "There have been members of Parliament in the capital that have advocated nationwide anti-conversion legislation. This has not gained any massive support among the politicians."
Stravers explains that the laws that are in existence are not enforced uniformly, but they do cause disruption among their workers. In fact, just two weeks ago, "Fifteen people were baptized, and they were all arrested. The person who baptized them was arrested. They were charged with violating the law. They were in jail for a couple of days, then released on bail. Their case has not been settled. "
Stravers adds d that "this kind of intimidation and harassment is intended to discourage people who are considering Christ." Still, "It's not stopping the movement at all' in fact, we see the response to Christianity accelerating. The general population is all very open to the Gospel."
Their ministry comes alongside church leaders with training to help them not only share the hope of Christ, but also plant churches and disciple new believers.
Children's Bible Clubs are also fast becoming the foundation of ministry due to the 4/14 Window, a time when a child between the ages of 4 and 14 is most open and responsive to the Gospel.
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