India (MNN) — Hindu leaders and delegates from all over the globe convened in Chicago, Illinois for the 2018 World Hindu Congress from September 7-9. At first glance, the event seemed like a peaceful gathering of influential Hindus. However, there were several concerning messages below the surface.
Organizers for the event included the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) of America, an organization classified as a “militant religious outfit” by the Central Intelligence Agency. Leaders of the VHP have called for violence against religious minorities in India, and members have even carried out extremist attacks in defense of Hindu nationalist ideals.
According to News India Times, conference convener Abhaya Asthana stated, “When people hear the word Hindu conference they think it’s a spiritual conference. There will be no spiritual discourses…. The aim is to use the essence of Hindu philosophy, dharma, to inform how we come together (in the diaspora) as men, women, and youth — in politics, education, and commerce.”
The concept of Hindus living in the diaspora is a dangerous one. To have a diaspora, one must believe there is a rightful homeland for your group.
Hindu nationalists claim India is their homeland, and as such, all non-Hindus ought to be driven out or forced to convert. In 2010, 94 percent of the world’s Hindus lived in India.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have further advanced these Hindu nationalist ideals — or Hindutva. BJP leaders have announced their goal to make India a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation) by 2024.
This goal of a “Hindu Rashtra” in India has gravely jeopardized the safety of Indian religious minorities, including Christians.
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “If you look at the most predominantly Hindu nation in the world, which is India, absolutely the pressure has been ramping up. In fact, just this past weekend, we had a guest from India on our VOM Radio podcast and his group has tracked persecution. They say, at this point, over the last six months there has been a persecuted Christian on average every single day. So it’s now every 24 hours somewhere in India a Christian is being persecuted.
“That is motivated and really put into practice by a government that has embraced this Hindu nationalist ideology that every Indian should be a Hindu, and if you’re not a Hindu, you ought to leave or you ought to be punished and influenced to become a Hindu.
“So when this congress comes together in Chicago and talks about expanding the influence of Hinduism, obviously for those of us who live in free countries, that should raise some red flags for us.”
India is ranked on Open Doors’ World Watch List in 11th place for “extreme persecution” of Christians. Recently, International Christian Concern surveyed 1,000 Indian Christians across eight states. Their findings showed 68.8 percent of believers in India feel discriminated against and that their safety is significantly threatened. Also, 85.61 percent reported sensing an increase in violence from Hindu radicals against their communities, families, and places of worship.
The growing popularity of anti-conversion laws in Indian states has further increased Christian persecution.
According to Nettleton, another thing their guest on VOM Radio recently shared is “one of the things this [anti-conversion] law says is, if you are going to talk to someone about changing their faith — let’s say we’re going to give a Gospel of John to somebody and we’re going to talk about the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ — this law says six months before you have that conversation, you’re supposed to go before a magistrate and say, ‘Hey, on this particular day I’m planning to talk to this particular person about changing their religion.’ Which if we even think about that, that just seems so ridiculous.
“But then, of course, if you do talk to someone about their religion, the police can come in and say, ‘Wait a minute, you didn’t go to the magistrate six months ago and tell him you were going to have this conversation. You broke the law.’
“It’s just an impossible standard and it is a Hindu nationalist government that is pushing this kind of law and these kinds of regulations out all across India as a way to persecute Christians and stop the spread of the Gospel.”
In the wake of the 2018 World Hindu Congress in Chicago, Nettleton reflects, “I hope many of the delegates from around the world see what a country that has religious freedom looks like and think, ‘Wow, this is actually kind of cool. Maybe we should bring home some of these concepts of religious freedom instead of some of the concepts of adding the influence of Hinduism in our country.’’
Meanwhile, there is good news. Hindu men and women are being reached out to by their Christian neighbors in India and around the world, and are being transformed by the beauty and power of the Gospel. The best thing we can do for now is pray.
“What we can do is certainly pray that in the spiritual realm, God’s power will reign even over…those living in Hindu-majority countries [and] coming to faith in Christ out of that Hindu background. Pray that they will be rooted in God’s Word, rooted in their faith, and able to withstand the persecution that they face.”
Also, Nettleton asks, “We can pray for our brothers and sisters, I think particularly of India — praying for them to come to faith, praying for Christians to have boldness, even though they know, ‘Yes, sharing my faith in Christ could get me arrested, it could get me beaten up, I still need to do that. God has still called me to do that.’ So praying that they will have boldness to do that in spite of the persecution and the oppression that they face.”
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