India (MNN) — You've heard the saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied?"
That's a thought that is running in the background as the 5th anniversary of the Orissa state purge comes up in August. In 2008, Hindu extremists attacked Christians throughout Kandhamal and in other parts of Orissa.
It was three months before the smoke cleared, and when it did, the Evangelical Fellowship of India and All India Christian Concern estimated that over 400 villages were purged of Christians. Investigations began into the destruction of 5,600 homes, the deaths of over 100 Christians, the burning of 296 churches, and the displacement of more than 56,000 people.
In December 2012, twelve people were handed prison sentences for their part in the 2008 attacks. However, due to the backlog of cases in India's justice system, it could take years before all of the attacks are dealt with. In fact, a Delhi high court judge once estimated it would take 466 years to catch up with the backlog in Delhi alone.
Orissa has an anti-conversion law on the books, as do Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Gujarat states. Rajasthan, Manipur and Karnataka are considering an anti-conversion draft, too.
"Anti-conversion laws" are frequently used as a pretext to disrupt church services and to harass and accuse Christians. Permission to build or renovate a church building is almost impossible, and church activities can be perceived as "hurting religious feelings" and "disturbing peace and order."
Given that scenario, it's no surprise that Hindu extremists' persecution of Christians seems to be on the rise. In fact, Dave Stravers, president of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India, once noted that their partners wouldn't get anything else done if they reported every incident.
Mission India spokeswoman Lindsay Ackerman shares a report she just got about a recent attack on a Children's Bible Club.
Armed with sticks, a mob of 40 anti-Christian extremists burst into a Children's Bible Club.
"Why are you teaching Christian songs and stories to boys and girls?" they demanded. As the terrified children ran to their homes, the mob took turns mercilessly beating our Children's Bible Club partner, Govind.
For nearly an hour, they brutally beat Govind – hitting him with sticks and kicking him. Then, the extremists called the police. "This man is forcing children to convert to Christianity," they lied. The police came and arrested the pastor.
Later that night, the police let Govind go on the condition that he'd come back the next day with someone who would pay money for Govind's release. Govind is currently recovering in a hospital.
Now, the extremists are threatening Govind that they will "take serious action against him" if he continues his ministry in the area. The same anti-Christian extremist group has also filed police reports against other Children's Bible Clubs in nearby area.
The lack of justice can be frustrating. But Ackerman says, "What we have found is that Christians in India, and especially in Orissa, when they face this kind of persecution, obviously it's difficult, but they are very determined to continue and press on with the Good News."
In fact, usually, the harassment provides an opportunity that they wouldn't have had. "What we've seen is that they've continue to show the love of Christ to their neighbors who once attacked them. They continue to display the love of Jesus. In many ways, that's opened doors."
Ackerman shares another report she got this week about another attack in a different part of Orissa. Another Children's Bible Club was in session when a mob broke into the worship of about 40 Christians and started beating people. It was clear that misunderstanding and fear added to the mob's fury. "People were basically shouting, ‘You can't become Christian! India is a Hindu nation! You need to act Hindu!' That's really where a lot of this is coming from. There's an entire movement where Christianity is seen as a western religion. It's seen as a way to turn India into a Western nation, and people don't want that."
Rather than fall under the radar, though, Ackerman says their partners are requesting the training and resources that Mission India provides because, despite the harassment, there's also a desire for the Gospel. "We're training church planters, we're equipping literacy teachers to provide free Bible-based literacy programs. We're enabling Children's Bible Clubs to be launched, and the demand has only increased since the attacks in 2008."
Although it can be discouraging at times when reports like this follow one after the other, Ackerman says the team at Mission India is taking a different approach to them. "We're really, actually, more encouraged than anything else at what's happening in Orissa. We really can see that the Holy Spirit is moving in big ways. I'm really excited to see, five years from now, where Orissa will be."
Pray that the other Bible Clubs in the area will not be disrupted by the extremist group. Pray for the safety of all believers in this area, and that the attackers and local police themselves will be transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps justice is not being denied after all. In the act of delay, perhaps it could be said that the open window is an introduction to the grace and mercy of a just God.