India’s Christians relieved at peaceful Christmas

By January 1, 2009

India (MNN) — After a
violence-free Christmas in the eastern state of Orissa, Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids,
Michigan-based Mission India
says, "It really does
illustrate that there is collusion between official forces and these armed
bands."

A bold statement, but nothing
new. The threat of a strike on Christmas
Day was met by the threat of arrest, and the extremists backed down. Stravers says, "What Christians have been
saying all along is that police officials and local and state authorities
either encouraged or permitted these extremists to do their worst." 

The Hindu nationalistic rampages were
frequent and violent, beginning August 24. Violence erupted a day after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu
spiritual leader, and four associates were gunned down in the district.

Although a Maoist rebel group
later claimed responsibility, that did nothing to lessen the severity of the
pogrom. Hundreds of Christians died, and
thousands more were displaced from their homes. Hindu extremists razed Christian businesses, churches, and houses before
the brutality began to abate.

As Christmas approached,
extremists began threatening again, and this time, the government could not
turn a blind eye. State and the federal
governments responded.

Stravers says God answered prayer
this way. "There was worldwide attention drawn to what happened. This is really a black eye for India, which
claims to be a secular democracy, allowing freedom of religion. I think the
embarrassment really stimulated the government to say 'We just can't allow this
to happen again.'" 

Despite opposition in states with
anti-conversion laws on the books, many are responding to the message of the
Gospel. The director of one relief camp
in Orissa told Mission India's team that the most important thing they could do
would be to equip believers so they will be able to stand strong in adversity.

Keep praying because thousands more
like them are responding to the Gospel. "Evangelistic work continues to
grow and accelerate dramatically. There
is no doubt in our minds that we're going to see, when we get done counting,
there will be more than a million new believers just from the work of
Mission India in India over the past year."

Click here if you can help with a
relief kit, fund a church planter, or keep a literacy club going.  

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