India (MNN) — Recent developments in India pit Hindus against Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority. According to Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Christians lose either way.
“You’ve got these tensions rising up between the Muslims and the Hindus, and Christians are getting caught in it,” Musselman says.
“As followers of Jesus, we have an understanding that the truth is Jesus Christ; there’s only one way to get to Him, and that conflicts with the [views of] Hinduism and Islam.”
India’s religious battle lines are as old as time. “There has been this ‘festering’ going on for many, many centuries,” Musselman says. Though Hinduism has its roots in ancient India and is considered one of the world’s oldest religions, “you have the history of the Church going right back into the first century; Christianity has been there for 2,000 years,” Musselman continues.
“At times, it has experienced growth; other times, you know, it’s been challenged, but it continues to go forward.”
Religious divisions gained “official” status following WWII and the end of British rule. As described here, widespread violence surrounded Pakistan’s separation from India in 1947; Bangladesh followed a few years later.
“There was all that animosity there, and I guess the hope was [things would calm down] when the country was divided between Pakistan and East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh,” Musselman explains.
Religious tensions came to a head recently in Uttar Pradesh. On August 5, Prime Minister Modi laid the cornerstones of a grand Hindu shrine on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque. The occasion’s significance carried across oceans; Hindus celebrated in the streets of New York City while Muslim opponents protested on the sidelines.
It’s the latest example of a nationalist agenda with religious implications. “The challenge for followers of Jesus has been this extremist ideology,” Musselman says.
“If you’re in India, you should be a Hindu. If you’re not, you should either convert to Hinduism or leave the country, or stay silent.”
Earlier this month, officials proposed cuts to school curriculum that would remove Islam and Christianity from social studies. On a more serious note, Musselman says, VOM Canada receives persecution updates from its partners in India on a fairly regular basis.
“Many, many stories continue to come [in] about these radical Hindu groups attacking Christians. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is going to settle down; the persecution of Christians only continues to rise,” Musselman says.
Send help to persecuted Christians through VOM Canada here. Most importantly, pray.
“Pray our brothers and sisters in India would be people of peace and show that there is a better way,” Musselman requests.
“Pray also that they would be encouraged and strengthened to know they are not forgotten. They feel very isolated. It’s important for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to know that they are being upheld in prayer and that we are cheering them on.”
Header image obtained via Wikimedia Commons.