Last year, 100 million believers worldwide suffered persecution for their faith, many of them living in South Asia, according to the Open Doors World Watch List. Six of the countries in which Gospel for Asia missionaries work are listed in the top 40 countries where persecution is most intense.
For men, women and children in these countries, following Christ often means being fired from jobs, disowned by families, beaten, imprisoned or even sentenced to death. They stand firm in their faith, declaring Jesus to be worth all their suffering.
Gospel for Asia missionary Dipal ministers in an area dominated by devout followers of a traditional Asian religion. There are three temples in just one village he visits.
The strict religiosity did not keep Dipal from sharing the love of Christ with the villagers, though. Many of them were interested in the literature Dipal gave to them, and they invited him to teach them more about Jesus.
After hearing the Word of God, 15 families decided to follow the Lord and publicly proclaim their decision.
One young man, Rebanta, who had been ill for the previous six months passed away shortly after he chose to embrace God’s love.
“Why did you all become Christians?” the more extreme religious villagers asked Rebanta’s family. “You lost your son because you became a Christian.”
The fanatic group would not stop at voicing their disapproval. They interrupted the burial service and would not let the family bury their son because that act would betray their religious traditions.
Finally, Rebanta’s family gave in to the pressure. They cremated Rebanta instead of burying him, according to the practice of their ancestors. The family doesn’t spend time with other believers anymore, and they no longer go to church. Ultimately, they decided against following Jesus.
Some of the fanatics threatened Dipal, too, and warned him against coming to their village. Dipal continues to visit the community, despite the threats. He encourages the believers with prayer.
While some of the other new believers were shaken by the opposition, they remain unmoved. They said they will follow Christ until they die.
As persecution happens all around us, pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ will continue to stand firm in their faith. Pray families in Christ will not be shaken by the pressure of others.