India (MNN) — It has been nearly a decade since the 2008 campaign of violence against Christians in Kandhamal, India displaced 60,000 Indian Christians. Over 300 churches and places of worship were destroyed and 6,000 Christian families attacked.
While this stands out as a horrific event in Christian history in India, a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India is now calling 2017 one of the most traumatic years for India’s Christian community since Kandhamal.
One account from Morning Star News tells the story of Hindu extremists who attacked a group of elderly Christians in Telangana and burned their Bibles.
Bibles Burned in Telangana
Levi MacGregor with Voice of the Martyrs Canada explains, “As I understand it, on January 21, a group of Christians associated with Gideons International had gathered some Bibles together and they were seeking to go to schools to distribute these Bibles to children. They had actually been praying and had gotten a good response from the headmaster of one of these schools. So they had delivered some Bibles to the children. The children were really happy to receive them.
“As they were leaving, they had actually even distributed some Bibles to a person who ran out of the [Hindu] temple looking for some New Testaments. So they had given him about 20 copies.”
Afterward, around 10 Hindus approached the Christians, demanded they stop handing out Bibles, and abused them with extremely vulgar language. The Christians got in their cars and went to leave peacefully.
“One car left with four people and there was a second car behind them with another four Christians. The first one stopped and at that point, one of the same Hindus had jumped into the car and stolen one of the unopened boxes of Bibles. Then as the second car pulled up, they stopped that one and pulled more Bibles out,” MacGregor shares.
“All this time, they were yelling at the Christians and they were telling them that they were useless, that they were idiots, things like this. They started tearing the Bibles apart. They tore the pages out and dumped some fuel on all of them and lit them on fire.”
A police case has been filed about the situation, but according to Morning Star News, it doesn’t seem like any charges will be brought against the assailants. A counter-charge has been filed against the Christians.
A Persistent Church
While this situation is one example, harassments and attacks against Christians throughout India are becoming more frequent and violent.
But MacGregor says our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ are not withering in the face of persecution.
“Indian Christians have been passionate about seeing the unreached people groups in their own country know the Lord, and when they look into the faces of their persecutors such as these Hindu extremists, they see potential brothers in Christ.
“I can guarantee you that these Christians we’ve been talking about in Telangana who had their Bibles stolen and burned, they would do it all over again because they value proclaiming the Gospel over their own lives.”
The Paradox of Persecution
The paradox of persecution is this: wherever there is persecution meant to stamp out the Church, often it is there the true Body of Christ strengthens and grows.
“Persecution is something promised to us by God in his Word,” says MacGregor. “It can be used by God for great revival. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, once said, ‘If you don’t want Christians in restricted nations to be persecuted, then don’t give them Bibles. If you do, they are going to use them and they will be persecuted.’
“The reality is we’re not going to see an end to persecution here on earth because all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. That’s what the Bible says. Author Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, however, does note that we can combat persecution and the best and deepest way to do that is to make mature disciples of Jesus.”
Making mature disciples of Jesus Christ is exactly what VOM Canada encourages through their ministry support in India and around the world. VOM Canada also supports children who suffered as orphans of the Kandhamal violence in 2008.
MacGregor reflects, “The encouraging thing, I think, for us Western Christians is that the same God that is sovereign over everything that happens in India — he loves and cares for persecuted Christians there and gives them strength to continue in the face of opposition — is the same God that not only cares about our own Western daily struggles but is available and powerful enough to help us in them and give us boldness to proclaim his name here too.”