India (MNN) — Church leaders in India say Christians were "sacrificial lambs" targeted by hard-line Hindus seeking an advantage in upcoming national elections. The All India Christian Council says the toll after nearly two months of violence has reached 59 dead and 50,000 displaced. Officials in the eastern state of Orissa, site of the worst violence, say 34 people have been killed.
President of Book of Hope Rob Hoskins says churches distributing the Book of Hope and showing the Godman film have been affected. "We've seen in some of the states children and families come to watch, and we've had some disruptions — mobs being stirred up against them. So we have seen a direct impact. We have decided to pull back a little bit and wait until things calm down."
He says churches have been burned, distributors have been beaten and some have been arrested.
Hoskins says it's causing some people on a national level to start asking tough questions. "Should conversion be legal? Does every human have the right to decide what their faith will be? And these questions are being brought to the forefront because of the persecution and the backlash against the persecution that's taking place in broad culture."
Hoskins is praying long term that it could open doors for more freedom to take place for people to choose what their faith will be.
However, Christians aren't interested in pulling back because there's such an incredible move of God in India. He says India Christians view persecution as a way of life, which is different than western Christians tend to think. "If we're having problems, or if there's any difficulty in their lives, then we need to try to avoid it, whereas I think the people that live in the suffering-church mentality believe that this is part of the life of a believer, and it's what I expect as a believer."
He says Christians in the west can learn from that.
In the meantime, Hoskins says we need to stand with our brothers and sisters in India. "As my brothers and sisters in India say, don't just pray for our protection. Pray that the Word of God would be known in the nation. The second thing we can do is actually give and provide God's Word. Also, the Godman film teams that are out there need our support. They don't want to pull back."
While many Christians in the west may be suffering financially, Hoskins says, "The crisis that our brothers and sisters face is far greater than the financial problems we're having. This is a time for us to give, rather than retreat."
It costs just 33-cents to put a Book of Hope into the hands of a child, while $1 can help ten children see Godman.