India (MNN) — Christians have good reason to fear violence tomorrow while a million Hindus meet for the Narmada Samajik Kumbh festival.
For months leading up to this event, extremists have threatened that they will use the celebration to cleanse the state of Madhya Pradesh.
"The religious extremists in Madhya Pradesh have been saying for months now that this will be the time to cleanse the state of Madhya Pradesh–as well as this particular district where this celebration is–of all Christians," says Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. "That means either a Christian must reconvert back to Hinduism, must leave, or must be killed."
After a fact-finding team went out to investigate the potential for a massacre, The Christian Post confirmed, "They have solid reasons to fear an outbreak of violence against Christians during or after the event."
Madhya Pradesh is part of the "Hindi Heartland" of India. Stravers says, "It's the most densely populated part of the country, and it's also the most Hindu." Christians make up for less than one percent of the state.
So why would believers be seen as a big enough threat to deserve "cleansing?"
"For the last several years, Madhya Pradesh has been very open to the Gospel," explains Stravers. "For the first time, in fact, in recorded history, we're seeing churches here growing rapidly, and villagers open. After hundreds of years of resistance, people are coming to Christ–villages, tribal areas, even in the big cities. And this is very threatening to the powers that be."
Increased interest in the Gospel has set off alarms for religious leaders and local politicos alike. Christians have historically been overlooked in Madhya Pradesh, but the reins tightened as the movement gained speed.
"The anti-conversion laws themselves are a response to the growth of the church. When the church was not growing, until about 10 years ago, no one really cared. There was pretty much a dead reaction to evangelism. But now with people being so open to the Gospel, politically there's agitation."
Extremists have acted on this agitation before. Many believers have been forced to reconvert, extremists physically threatening them into compliance to pray to Hindu gods and paint traditional paint on their bodies. A new wave of violence toward believers would not be unheard of.
In the past few weeks, however, festival leaders have denied that the cleansing will take place. Stravers is still concerned, though. "We know who the people are that are organizing this religious festival, and these are very active, violent, political extremist groups, who have previously repeatedly stated their intention to get rid of all Christians in India."
The Christian Post fears that even if nothing extraordinary happens, the celebration could still encourage ill feelings toward Christians.
The festival will last from February 10 to February 12. Pray that the minds of attendees would be distracted from any ideas to harm believers, during or after the celebration.
Praise God, too, as He continues to move in Madhya Pradesh. "God's doing His work. Thank God for it, and pray for the workers that are experiencing this fruit from their labor."