India (MNN) — As the two-year anniversary of the Orissa pogrom
approaches, ministries in India are concerned about the safety of Christmas
Attacks have already been ramping up, says Dave Stravers,
President of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. "There have probably been more than 1,000
attacks like this in 2010 so far."
The most recent one came from a new church plant in
Karnataka State that had been started in the home of a woman named Mahana and
her family. Stravers explains, "Last week they were in a prayer meeting in
her house, and a gang of Hindu extremists burst into the home and started
assaulting the family."
The thugs used Mahana as a warning to other villagers. "They
ripped her clothes half off, and then paraded her throughout the village,
shouting, ‘This is what will happen to
anyone who joins the Jesus followers.'"
The next day, 12 believers were arrested at a hospital
where they were seeking treatment for the wounds received in the attack. Police interrogated them for nearly 48 hours
until other local Christians were able to raise bail. "Extremists are in
collusion with local police," Stravers explains, "so they beat up the Christians. The police
come, and anyone with blood on their face gets arrested and accused of inciting
Ministry in that village has been disrupted, Stravers says. "Mahana, her husband, and their children are in hiding,
because the last thing the extremists did when they left was to say, ‘We're going
to kill you.'"
This situation highlights a small but vocal minority
opposed to the changes brought about through faith in Christ. "Ninety-nine percent of the population of India is
open to the Gospel, for the first time. This is what's causing frustration and anger on the part of the small
minority that feels threatened by this."
Because of this, Stravers would not be surprised if the
volume of attacks increased during the Advent season. "The Christmas season is
the one time when Christians do a lot more public things, and it becomes more
obvious to this small minority of extremists that the Gospel is spreading
Stravers continues, "This
is fear. And of course, that is the strategy of the extremists: to incite
fear in people." Villages where
Christians were attacked on Christmas Eve in 2008 are still empty. Christians
are not being allowed back unless they reconvert to Hinduism.
That won't stop Mission India's church planters, though. Already, Mission
India has a team of three church planters who are nearing the end of their
training and will be able to resume ministry in this area soon.
Stravers asks for prayer "that believers will have courage, and that God
will frustrate the strategy of extremists to intimidate believers and stop
the work of the Gospel." Pray also for courage,
unity, and forgiveness among the Christian communities. Click
here for ways you can help.