India (MNN) — Shunned and
hated in Pakistan, families who suffered through torture, kidnapping and
increasing pressure to convert to Islam finally fled across the border to
difference is that instead of Christian families, those on the run were
Hindu. That prompted a huge cry from
the Indian government on their behalf.
Officially, the government's stance is
that Pakistani Hindus arriving in India are on pilgrimage. However, this week,
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari waded into the fray. After being briefed on the growing problem of
mass migration, he told the Sindh government to amend the Constitution and
write an "anti-conversion" law.
That is raising some alarms. Pakistan already has a "blasphemy" law which is frequently used to
settle personal scores with Christians. Even though a new anti-conversion bill
is supposed to protect minority religions, that's not how it's often enforced.
On top of that, Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based
Mission India says if Pakistan comes up with its own "anti-conversion" law, it
sets a precedent that neighboring states
in India are likely to follow.
Additionally, some Hindu leaders have grown more aware of the fast
growth of Christians, especially in light of the Dalit Awakening in 2001. "They're worried that their culture is
being eroded and their political influence, their power, is being eroded. So
they want to stop it."
Though India's constitution provides full religious freedom
of worship and witness for all religions, there remains opposition. The rise of
Hindutva extremism — "India is Hindu only" — resulted in hate campaigns
against Christians and Muslims.
"Any law proposed in any India state will affect Christians
first," Stravers notes. Harsh anti-conversion regulations in at
least five states have done little to placate Hindu extremists. In many
the laws are often loosely worded and widely open to interpretation.
In smaller villages, Christians are given a choice: reconvert to Hinduism, leave the village, or
face death. The risk of violent mobs
and riots exploding into days of rampage is high. Simmering tensions are threatening to explode
with the smallest twitch. Stravers agrees,
"Inter-religious conflict and inter-ethnic conflict in this (border) region
is often violent…. It causes a lot of fear."
Yet, oppression has done little to stem the flow of the
Gospel. Stravers marvels, "Christian
workers have such a great deal of courage in the face of opposition." Pray
that despite the intimidation and violence in many of India's states, Christians
will unashamedly preach the Gospel.
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