India (MNN) – The sentiment in India is that to be truly Indian, one must be Hindu. And this religious nationalism has grown deadly enough to concern audiences in the United States.
Open Doors USA’s David Curry explains, “This pastor, Pastor Gideon, was harassed and harassed, beaten over the last six months and then, of course, he’s found brutally murdered by these Hindu extremists. And the government of India, which is number 11 … on the *World Watch List, needs to realize they are part of this.”
Fox News recently reported on Pastor Gideon, who was supported through Voice of the Martyrs in southern India. His body, which witnesses said showed signs of torture, was found by congregation members in his home next to the Church. The attackers went so far as to string Pastor Gideon up from the ceiling to make it look like a suicide, and that’s exactly what the local authorities claimed it was.
However, the harassment and physical abuse Pastor Gideon endured these past months at the hands of Hindu activists is a strong indicator that his death was an execution. And it’s these facts drawing the world’s attention to the growing persecution that’s taking place in India.
Unfortunately, the attack on Pastor Gideon isn’t an outlier. Christian persecution has been rising quickly in India over the last few years, despite Christians comprising less than 64 million of the country’s roughly 1.3 billion population. In other words, Christians only represent 4.76 percent of India’s population. Yet, in the course of a year, the country jumped from number 15 on the World Watch List to number 11.
Rising Violence in India
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed India on its 2017 Countries of Particular Concern list as a Tier 2 country. A Tier 2 placement is reserved for countries where the USCRIF finds a government to have played a hand in instigating or tolerating serious religious freedom violations either systematically, as an ongoing matter, or egregiously.
Every day, there are numerous attacks on Christians and at times even riots in India. And Curry believes India’s Prime Minister Modi is part of the problem.
“They keep inciting this racial and religious violence against Christians…It’s a nationalism, it’s going to spread and it is spreading into Nepal which wasn’t on our World Watch List but jumped all the way up into the high 20s this year because of that same thing: Hindu and Indian national pride,” Curry explains.
“The ambassador regularly lies about this subject. The Prime Minister distances himself from it. But his prime people are on TV regularly saying they’re going to push every Christian out of India by 2021.”
It’s curious that even with the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in India and the plurality the country has, its government and many of the people are pushing for all India’s inhabitants to conform to a single religion.
Prime Minister Modi is suspected of using Hindu and Indian nationalism to preserve power. Yet, the freedom of religion is a universal human right. And these attacks haven’t been limited to churches and individuals.
Kicked Out of India
“They’re already harassing Indian ministries. I know several cases where people who run camps or people who run charitable ministries—Indians now, born and raised—are being arrested and put into prison because they’re Christians,” Curry says.
Foreign Christian non-profit organizations are already being pushed out of the country, too. Last year, Compassion International was forced to leave their work in India because rising restrictions meant they could no longer fund work in the country. Curry shares that World Vision is facing a similar problem too. These are organizations providing services for Indian citizens in a country which often faces great need.
“Pastor Gideon is an example. He’s serving his community, they’re feeding the poor, they’re doing all kinds of stuff. You have other cases of Catholic nuns being attacked who are running medical clinics,” Curry explains. “These aren’t criminals. These are people who want to serve India and they’re being attacked for their Christian faith.”
Curry believes the issue at hand with India is one that international political pressure may be able to curtail. For this reason, Curry urges Christians to advocate on behalf of their Christian brothers and sisters in India before their congressmen.
“We can say to our government, ‘We’re spending billions and billions of dollars in India. We want the places where we spend our money for there to be human rights…We’re not going to [be able to] stop the persecution of Christians, but we’re going to do everything we can to stand up for them and let them be understood and advocated for, let our voice be heard,’” Curry shares.
Advocate and Pray
So please, start writing and calling your senators about the persecution Christians are facing in India. Not sure where to start? Open Doors USA can help with its various advocacy projects and more.
You can also help your brothers and sisters in Christ by praying. Pray for their boldness in the Gospel, perseverance in their faith, and for their safety and courage. Ask God to give these Christians wisdom and to also encourage them in the midst of the violence and persecution they face. And finally, pray for God to be glorified in India, despite the tragedy it’s bearing.
“India is changing so rapidly many of these Christians don’t know what to do. And I’m fearful that the attacks are going to grow even worse,” Curry says.
*The World Watch List is Open Doors USA’s yearly ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe religious persecution.