India (MNN) — Hindu militants have "forced" Christian families to "convert" to Hinduism. Now, they're threatening to resume attacks against Christians in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
Mission India's David Stravers, speaking from India, says, "They know of 14 deaths of Christians and thousands of people that are displaced–actually either in a refugee camp, or in some cases, they're just hiding in the jungle."
According to Stravers, tremendous ministry has taken place in the area hardest hit. "We had church planting and 13 of our children's Bible clubs. We had five literacy classes going. At least one of the literacy teachers lost his home and is living in a refugee camp. Four churches that we had planted last year were burned." He says currently all of their programs have been suspended.
Stravers says that's the typical response when something like this happens "because then you're not so high profile, and people will kind of come to their senses, and people start talking. And the people in the villages who have been benefiting from the ministry, they say, 'You're not teaching us any more. Why not? We don't like this.' We actually find that the Hindus actually come to our defense."
Mission India believes they know the reason for the attacks. "It's suddenly very responsive to the Gospel," says Stravers. "I've just been amazed to see the response in tribal areas and also the regular Hindu population. So the persecution is really [a response to] the fast growth of the church."
What's amazing is that local believers aren't discouraged. In fact, they're very positive. Stravers says, "This will actually increase our work because every time we've had this outbreak, especially in Orissa, …we get more volunteers. Our director there said, 'David, if this persecution continues, we will have so many volunteers we'll be sending people to other states.'"
However, there are concerns that western believers won't help. "We don't know how long this responsiveness will last. There are workers in place ready to go. They're passionate; they're willing to suffer; they know it's dangerous, but they still want to do it. They just need a little help. They need our materials, and they need a little bit of training."
The funding you provide goes a long way to fueling the outreach, says Stravers. "It costs us about $30 for each literacy person and only $1 for each child in a Bible club. Our staff is saying we could easily double what we're doing in Orissa if we only had the ability to do so."
To put the need in perspective — Mission India currently provides literacy training to 130,000 Hindus, with 270,000 on a waiting list. That means only one-third are able to hear the Gospel.