India (MNN) — Is it dangerous to be a Christian in India? Morning Star News recently reported that on average, Christians are attacked thrice weekly in India's southern Karnataka state. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), Karnataka led the entire nation in attacks against Christ-followers between 2009 and 2011.
Violence against Christians happens every day, affirms Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. But believers aren't backing down. They keep sharing the story of Jesus.
"These incidents of violence and persecution actually are a confirmation that so many people are turning to Jesus…those people are committed to Hinduism or Islam [and] it has [them] worried," says Stravers.
Imagine if this happened in your church:
"A group of armed people came in, right in the middle of your worship service, and started beating people, and you really have no recourse or protection from the police," Stravers described.
"How would you feel about going to church next week, and the week after?"
This is exactly what happened on Sunday to a young church leader in Maharashtra, bordering Karnataka to the north. He was hosting congregation members at his home for a worship service when a group of young men burst in unexpectedly. They began beating everyone in sight; fortunately, Stravers says, none of the injuries were serious enough to require medical attention.
Although a complaint was filed to police, they haven't done anything yet. Stravers says this lack of response is pretty typical in India.
"Sometimes police do give protection to a Christian," said Stravers, "but often, and it appears in the state of Karnataka…the police actually are colluding with the attackers."
In a recent bout of violence, one pastor's attackers actually followed him to the hospital to "finish the job." According to Morning Star News, a pastor in Kannur village was beat unconscious by Hindu extremists. The church leader arrived at the hospital with a broken rib, severe injuries to his head and neck, and bruises covered his entire body.
Early the next morning, attackers came to the pastor's private ward and tried to kill him.
"Five extremists came near my bed, started to strangle me, and brought a razor to slit my throat," he told Morning Star News.
While police protected the church leader for seven days following his attack, no arrests have been made. According to Morning Star News, police warned the believer not to lead worship again or else be subject to "dire consequences."
Stravers explains, "The opposition to Christianity in India…is very organized. Sometimes they go to the police in advance and tell them what they're going to do, so they get the police on their side."
He adds that when an attack occurs and someone alerts officials, police will arrest the victim for "inciting violence."
What can you do to help believers in India?
"Pray for them, and you can participate in our ministry," states Stravers. Mission India helps local believers with training, materials, Bibles and supplies. They also have a children's ministry. You can learn more about their work here.
"We pray for God's protection, and we ask God also to give courage. Those prayers are being answered in a remarkable way."