Christians meeting in India.
Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton says nine years ago India was a peaceful place as it related to violence against Christians. "We thought of it as the world's largest functioning democracy -- a free country -- a place where Christians could worship freely. Last year, 2006, Voice of the Martyrs staff documented more than 200 significant incidents of persecution."
These were serious events where Christians were beaten or even killed because of their faith in Christ. Nettleton says this violence is significant. "That's four times a week, somewhere in India, a Christian is being persecuted for their faith. The persecution has just increased dramatically even in the last 18 months."
While many thought the persecution would decrease with the radical Hindus losing power on the national level, Nettleton says there's been a shift. "They have really focused in on the state level. So, we have seen some of these states pass anti-conversion laws. We've seen the state governments act against churches (and) against Christian institutions."
Nettleton says the attacks aren't happening in any one area; they're happening all over the country.
The persecution is a direct result of Hindus and Muslims converting to Christ, says Nettleton. "They consider those people to be apostates--people who should be killed. Always around the world where you see the church growing, you see some form of challenge coming from the other side. And, in India it is coming in the form of persecution."
While persecution is difficult, it's creating a very strong, vibrant church. Nettleton says many Bible school students are now taking a martyrs oath upon graduation. "That produces a depth of commitment. Nobody enters into that lightly. And so, when you have a church full of on-fire, committed, deeply rooted believers, that church cannot help but affect society around it and change people's lives."
VOM is reaching out to the victims of persecution. Nettleton says, "We have been involved in directly helping the families of those who are attacked and imprisoned. We've been involved in providing medical care for Christians who have been injured in these attacks. We have provided aid to the families of martyred pastors in India."
They're also providing discipleship materials.