India (MNN) — Earlier this month, a group of British parliamentarians presented a “Commentary on the Current State of Freedom of Religion or Belief” and called out 27 countries for religious freedom abuses. They presented the report on December 10 — the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. India was one of the nations on that list.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has a goal to make all of India a Hindu nation — or “Hindu Rashtra” — by 2024. Due to a planned campaign by Hindu nationalists, between four and five churches have been attacked every day recently, according to sources from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.
Anti-conversion charges are also often used in India to suppress religious minority voices and prevent other Hindus from converting to other religions, including Christianity.
This hostility towards Christians can get worse leading to and following Christmastime.
Floyd Brobbel with VOM Canada says, “It might be milder forms where Christians are denied going out and singing carols or having public Christmas messages. Those things are shut down. But often we see it’s quite common for Christians to be attacked or roughed up on their way to Christmas services, even to their church buildings.”
Many Christians in India didn’t have the freedom to openly celebrate Christmas this year. Hindu nationalists and hostile neighbors make life very difficult and even dangerous for Indian believers, especially in more rural areas with less oversight.
“So we see that in many cases Christians in India will lay low during the Christmas time celebrations, which is very opposite to what we’re used to in the West. We’re used to ramping up our Christmas celebrations and having our Christmas decorations on full display and inviting people to our Christmas Eve services…. In India, that would be the opposite in many cases, especially in the rural areas where Christians will usually lay low and worship discreetly and quietly and celebrate with their family members in a very low-level way.
India sits in 11th place on the World Watch List — a ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians suffer for their faith. Christians are vastly in the minority, only comprising 2.3 percent of India’s population. Otherwise, four out of five Indians identify as Hindu.
However, this doesn’t mean Indian Christians are dampening ministry efforts. Despite the persecution, they are still reaching out to their neighbors with the Gospel, training Christian leaders, and planting churches.
Christmas may have come and gone, but Brobbel says we can stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in India by proclaiming Jesus’ birth with them year-round.
“We can honor our persecuted brothers and sisters in India by not shrinking back. We have an opportunity to proclaim the Messiah’s birth and I think we should take full advantage of that while we can in our countries. As they are willing to pay the price to do so in their countries, we should be willing to pay the price in our countries as well. I think we can honor them and join them in proclaiming that message wherever we have the opportunity to do so.”
Please pray also for Indian believers to be spiritually encouraged. Even when they meet hostility or are threatened because of their faith, ask God to imbue them with a sense of peace and courage so their persecutors would recognize the light of Christ in them.
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