India (MNN) — Violence that started in India during Christmas celebrations has only escalated in Orissa state.
Orissa state is known for the violence.
Operation Mobilization's Peter Dance said that is likely the result of a combination of things. The area has many strong Hindu fundamentalists, and there are many Dalits coming to Christ. "[Dalits are] ostracized from any religious opportunities there in India, and they're turning to Christ because Christ loves them. And they're beginning to see that, and they're turning to Christ by the tens of thousands. This persecution has been deliberately focused on that," said Dance.
The Hindu opposition to the growth of the church has forced OM to become more sensitive with their outreach. "Years ago, obviously, it was much more free to, shall we say, go out in the street, give out tracts, preach from the corner of the mall, for instance," said Dance. However, their people were beginning to be beaten up and stoned and run out of towns because of these outreach methods. As the situation changes, the methods of outreach change.
Those changes have not hindered church growth, and the persecution has actually contributed to church growth. Many people turn to the church during uncertain times. "Now of course there's a whole lot of questions that go with that: ‘Do they know what they're doing when they turn to the church?' etc. Well, that's where churches and other organizations, including ours, are involved in being able to share the beauty of Christ," Dance explained.
Since Dalits have been denied not only religious rights but health and schooling as well, they are very excited to learn more. "I think actually [the growth] is a very under-reported situation," said Dance.
The current violence is a reminder of the continual struggle Christians face in India. Dance says Christians need to pray for the "thousands and thousands of Christians in refugee camps." Christians as well as Hindus and Muslims are ministering to refugees. OM is trying to raise funds to provide food, clothing and shelter.