Open Doors seminars helping persecuted pastors in India

By February 11, 2004

India (ODM/MNN)–An angry mob attacked a group of 80 Christians participating in a prayer meeting in the city of Roorkey, Uttaranchal State, India late last year, according to a report from Open Doors.

Assailants tore apart banners, posters and tracts. They burned Bibles and damaged equipment at the Vaishali Guesthouse, which was hosting the prayer service.

This report is just one example of the persecution that has steadily increased in India over the last several years. In fact, more persecution incidents were recorded in India between 1998 and 2003 than in the previous 100 years. Approximately 4,000 cases are pending in Indian courts involving attacks against Christians.

India is officially the world’s largest functioning democracy. But radical Hindus are eager to turn India into a pure Hindu nation. That has led to the implementation of “anti-conversion” laws in five Indian states that are clearly biased against Christians and Christian missionary activity.
Under the law, anyone converting to another faith must register with local authorities. A national “anti-conversion” law is also on the table.

Joseph R. Pitts, a U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania, recently returned from a fact-finding trip to India. He told Compass Direct: “Christians in India are a minority group easily targeted and exploited. We are very concerned about the rise of extremism, whether it’s Islam, Hindu or Buddhist.

“We heard testimonies about ‘anti-conversion’ laws, which basically are taking away the peoples’ religious freedom. This is contrary to what democracy stands for.”
Eighty percent of India is Hindu and 12 percent Muslim. Christians make up 2.5 percent or 25 million of the people. However, the number of Christians is steadily growing each year.

Open Doors with Brother Andrew is helping Christian pastors, leaders and other believers by conducting “Standing Strong Through the Storm” seminars in India.
The four-day seminars are designed to prepare church leaders for persecution and encourage them to maintain a strong Christian witness in a hostile environment. The training events help Christians understand that the Bible instructs us to expect persecution. A total of 27 seminars have been held in India over the last three years with 10 more scheduled this year.

One significant event during a 2003 seminar in Gujarat State, where persecution of Christians is especially harsh, was the sharing of testimonies by the participants. One participant, Suresh, who has been a victim of false accusation and severe harassment, expressed his gratitude for having been given an opportunity to express his struggles and in turn be prayed for by the group: “The seminar has been timely for my situation and it is good that I could come here for fellowship and encouragement. It does not trouble me that I had to drive for one full day to get here. It is worth the effort. I was feeling alone and hopeless but you have given me hope and assurance.”

Another church leader, Kim, shared, “The Lord took me to Gujarat to be a witness for Him. I eventually have become a daughter to the villagers where I live for Jesus. Troubles come and they will increase, I know, but I am better equipped after this seminar.”

Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, states: “Nearly 50 years experience in ministry with the persecuted church has given Open Doors a unique perspective on what it means for Christians to face and live under religious persecution. Our ‘Standing Strong Through the Storm’ seminars share the experiences of others who have undergone similar conditions and have survived. The Bible has much to say about suffering. Biblical principles combined with real-life stories of contemporary believers bring a great deal of encouragement to Christians facing persecution for the first time.”

In addition to the 10 seminars, Open Doors is committed to mobilizing prayer networks in India in 2004 and providing additional support for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

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