India (GFA) — One Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope center was closed November 17 after extremists forced the landlord to stop renting space to the program. They also threatened to kill staff members if they stay in the area.
On November 16, the center’s staff held a medical camp for the students, followed by other activities. At around 4:30 p.m., a group of more than 300 people from a nearby village came to the Bridge of Hope center and told the staff to leave the cluster of local villages as soon as possible.
“We will not allow any Christian activity in our village, even if it is social work,” they said, while others shouted anti-Christian slogans and verbally abused the staff.
The staff talked with the protestors for nearly an hour, explaining the activities of the center and how they help impoverished children, but the crowd was unmoved. They called the landlord of the house and threatened to banish him from the village if he continued to allow the program to operate in his building.
At the homeowner’s request, the staff brought all the center’s supplies to a local believer’s house. The following afternoon, however, more anti-Christian groups arrived in the village, many bearing weapons.
They told the staff to leave the area, saying, “We will not allow any work of Christians in this area. If you do not obey, we will take your lives.”
Upper caste groups, who are a minority in India, often oppose the education of lower caste and Dalit (“Untouchable”) children. However, this is the first time such a severe campaign has been mounted against a Bridge of Hope center, marking an increase in persecution.
The center’s closing means a loss of free education, food, and medical care to more than 100 local children, many of whom come from Dalit backgrounds and will be unable to receive an education apart from the Bridge of Hope program.
"It breaks our heart to see adults who should be the protectors of these children become the roadblocks to their future and hope of a better life," said K.P. Yohannan, the founder and international director of Gospel for Asia.
The Bridge of Hope staff and local church ask for the prayers of fellow believers as they determine how to serve the community at this time.
"We will do all we can to ensure that these children will continue to have the future they deserve," Yohannan said.
Pray for the protection of the Bridge of Hope staff, local believers, and everyone in the area who stands in support of the Bridge of Hope. Pray for wisdom as GFA staff determines its response to the anti-Christians’ demands. Pray for open eyes and softened hearts in the people who are making threats against believers.