India (MNN) — Tomorrow ends the first week and first 4 phases of the 2014 India elections, scheduled to take place from April 7 to May 12. With over 800 people registered to vote and potential deterrents like weather, harvest season and holidays, logistical challenges create the need for a two-month polling schedule.
On Saturday, voters in Assam, Sikkim and Tripura are expected to cast their ballots for India’s next Prime Minister and Parliament. Votes from polling stations across India will be counted and results announced on May 16.
Speaking from India using Skype, Asian Access (A2)’s David Dayalan says there hasn’t been any election-related violence against Christians yet. But polls show a Hindu nationalist party in the lead, and that has church leaders concerned.
“What the Church kind of fears is the future; in case you have this Hindu right-wing party come to power, there might be a lot more intentional intensified attacks,” Dayalan explains.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political wing of the Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS advocates hindutva and the transformation of India into a strictly-Hindu nation.
In previous years, the BJP has chosen moderate candidates to run for Prime Minister. But this year, RSS has “been more involved” on the political scene, resulting in the selection of RSS “foot soldier” Narendra Modi for Prime Ministerial candidate.
“There is a clear message being sent out by BJP by selecting [Modi] as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate… [BJP is] going to be very hardline in their policies and the way they will take a stand, and the direction they will go,” notes Dayalan.
“They, in fact, gave an open call — the RSS chiefs — called for all the Hindu RSS workers…to hit the road, to help make sure the BJP wins.”
The rise of Hindu nationalism would undoubtedly cause trouble for all who follow Christ. Below the BJP website’s definition of hindutva as “cultural nationalism”, it quotes an article defending hindutva as a religion, specifically “the religion you and I, the vast majority of our countrymen practice.” In the eyes of those who advocate Hindu nationalism, including Modi and the BJP, other religious minorities have no place in India.
In fact, intolerance and communal violence against religious minorities resulted in multiple bans against the RSS. While governing Gujarat in 2002, Modi came under fire for refusing to protect Muslim communities from pro-Hindu mobs.
“If Modi becomes PM, we are worried that whatever happened in Gujarat could happen here again,” a Muslim named Khalil Ahmad told Reuters yesterday.
Fighting fears with faith
Through training and discipleship, Asian Access equips local pastors and leaders to take the Gospel into their communities and plant new churches. These students also use what they’ve learned to train other leaders. The end result is a multiplication effect leading to transformed communities throughout India.
During this season, A2 trainers are teaching leaders and congregations to face down election fears with faith.
“We really work with pastors to see them grow like Christ-like leaders, men of integrity and character,” says Dayalan. “I think by deepening their lives…they will be able to truly handle the challenges that would be thrown at them by the right-wing (BJP).”
Here are some ways you can come alongside A2’s work in India. With 5 phases remaining in India’s polling cycle, the most important way to help is through prayer.
“In case they (the BJP) come to power, it’s going to be the responsibility of the larger Body (of Christ) to pray for the Church, the leaders,” says Dayalan. “Pray for God’s grace and strength at this point, for the churches and the leaders to stand up.”
Pray also for new believers, he asks, especially those in Madhya Pradesh. That state just passed a new, more stringent anti-conversion law, putting believers at a higher risk if their faith is discovered. Dayalan says authorities use conversions as an excuse to destroy church buildings and attack pastors.
Ask the Lord to give church leaders courage. Pray they can find words to encourage their congregations to hold fast to their faith.