UPDATE: It appears Modi and the BJP have secured victory as India’s next leaders; please pray for believers and the future of religious freedom in India.
India (MNN) — It’s Results Day in India. After 69 days of polling in the world’s largest elections, around 1 million workers are tallying results from some 500 million ballots. India’s new Prime Minister and government will be officially announced this afternoon.
The Hindu nationalist party BJP and their front man, Nahendra Modi, are expected to win elections. Christian groups ministering in India have long been wary of what a Modi/BJP victory could mean for their people.
John Sparks with India Partners says they’re already encountering hardship from BJP officials on the local level.
“Everywhere, it’s become more difficult to do evangelism,” says Sparks. “If the local people say ‘it’s not going to happen,’ it becomes very difficult for the church.”
According to the official BJP Web site, party officials are at the helm of six states: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Rajasthan. Of these, three states have anti-conversion laws in place, and one state, Rajasthan, is considering putting an anti-conversion law in place.
Anti-conversion legislation doesn’t make conversion (the changing of one’s religion) illegal. It outlaws conversions made by “force,” “fraud,” or “allurement.” However, Hindu radicals have falsely accused Christians of forced conversions in the past, in order to restrict their evangelistic efforts.
If the BJP comes into power, there is the possibility that they will enforce Freedom of Religion Acts, or anti-conversion laws, at the national level. Sparks isn’t worried, though.
“Modi has become a very good politician, and he realizes that for him to win long-term, he has to be ‘in the middle.’ He cannot be way over on one side of the political spectrum,” Sparks says.
“If he brings about an anti-conversion law, it’s less likely that a large section of the population will continue to support him.”
However, a Modi/BJP win would give free reign to Hindu radicals in state and city governments.
“Pressure that was there because there was an opposing government (a coalition led by the Congress party) over them will be released,” explains Sparks. “So if incidences happen locally, there won’t be the pressure from the central government to bring justice.
“That will be most difficult for Christians in rural areas, especially in states that are ruled by BJP today.”
The best thing you can do right now is pray. Pray for God’s will to be done in this possible leadership change. Pray that national believers will have courage to share their faith boldly, despite the threat of persecution.
Then, be ready to act.
“If I’m going to pray, that also means I have to respond to the voice of God,” notes Sparks.