India (MNN) — Recent protests in India brought the question
of whether or not the country could risk facing its own "Arab Spring."
An anti-corruption movement is snowballing into a challenge
for the ruling Congress Party. Dave
Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says, "The population of India is fed up with
governmental corruption and injustice. They're demanding a new standard of
accountability and a new standard for actions from government
Debate over the issues of corruption spread to include the
rights of civil society to organize, air its views, and influence policy-making.
There are some parallels with the Arab Spring, but Stravers
thinks that India's diversity will take it a different direction. "There
have been non-violent protests, demonstrations at government buildings. I think this is actually good news. I
attribute this, partly at least, to the success that the Gospel has had in the
last 10 to 15 years in India."
Stravers explains that the Gospel message runs counter to the
message of the Hindu caste. As a result,
the Church is growing faster than those in power are comfortable with. A Hindu nationalist movement is becoming more
vocal as they see the power base shifting away from the docile Dalits. Today, Christians are finding themselves in
new places of influence in society. Their worldview shapes their actions, and that brings hope. Stravers says, "When people get hope,
that's when the protests start."
For example, the lowest castes have traditionally been marginalized
in India. "We'll have people come
into our literacy classes and discover that they're human beings. Literally,
they did not know they were human beings," exclaims Stravers. He adds that "when they're treated
unjustly, people say, 'Well, I'm not fully human, so we must accept this.'
There's a kind of fatalism, a resignation."
As the students go through the literacy curriculum, or
participate in other parts of Mission India's outreach, they begin to
understand their value. "When
people learn that there's a God who loves them, that they're human beings, that
they have potential, then there's a whole change, a kind of a transformation in
Outrage over being taken advantage of can be a catalyst for
change. "Unfortunately, this can create an angry outburst, but the good
news is that Indians are now demanding a kind of ethical standard that is
absolutely essential if their country is going to thrive."
Stravers goes on to say, "We're not advocating
involvement in protests, but we do say, 'Pray to God and expect God to bless
you.' Treat each other justly, fairly, honestly with grace, mercy and
love." Because that is a pro-active
response, living as a Christ-follower gets attention and opens doors for the Gospel. "This is a new message. People look
around, and they hear stories of what's
happening in other countries. They read the Scriptures and say, 'This would be
good for our society to operate this way.'"
An Arab Spring may not be what India is looking at in its
future, but as Stravers describes the changes,
India is very possibly looking at a season of harvest.