(MNN) — Christians in India celebrated Christmas under the threat of
violence. While there were isolated
incidents reported, nothing on the scale of the Orissa pogrom of 2008 emerged.
relief, they've begun this year with a push toward passing the Prevention of
Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011.
Government reports show more than
6,000 incidents of communal violence were reported in India in the past ten
years. That's a pattern that's likely to continue. KP
Yohannann with Gospel for Asia says, "Personally, I don't expect this to change because more and more, people are choosing to follow Christ."
He goes on to say that, "Our
people are facing persecution. Even recently,
people walking into Sunday morning service, disrupting it, and attacking the missionaries
and the pastors, threatening Christian families to renounce their faith." But he adds, "It is not as widespread as it was."
Some areas are more volatile than
others. "Orissa has been, for years, what you call a 'boiling pot.' Whether
the government is BJP or Congress, it seems that the fundamentalists seem to
have a tremendous amount of network established."
Kandhamal district, anti-Christians called for a general strike that would "Stop Christmas." GFA workers were
worried that riots would erupt. Many fled their villages and took refuge in
the same area that was most severely persecuted in the attacks against
Christians in 2008. Throughout Orissa, more than 120 men, women, and children
were murdered, and hundreds of homes and churches were destroyed.
concerns are why the All India Christian Council (AICC) is pushing for the Bill to be presented to
Parliament soon. It was drafted by the
National Advisory Council and is now with the Union government.
Religious minorities and many members
of civil society support it as a way to curb communal violence and bring
justice to the victims. The problem, Yohannan says, is that, "People
use religion, especially of the illiterate, innocent people, as a means to
capture political ground and power. Religious fanaticism always is used by the
crafty politicians to get power."
But it's really bigger than politics,
Yohannan points out. Because GFA workers are tirelessly sharing the hope of Christ,
people are coming to faith in Him. That
means the opposition isn't so much extremists. "It's a really strong spiritual warfare. I think the strongest weapon
we can use against this thing is prayer and fasting. Then, as Hebrews says,
'Come alongside the suffering brethren, and love them, embrace them, help them.'"
Passage of the Prevention of Communal
and Targeted Violence Bill would protect some of the more vulnerable
populations. However, Yohannan says
this is not merely a political issue. "These
communities, Muslim communities, Hindu and all, I think more and more people will
come to know Jesus Christ, no matter what."
Pray for the believers in Orissa, that
they will not fear and will remain strong in the Lord during this time. Pray
that they will be lights shining in the darkness and that the Lord will