Political climate makes conditions even worse for Indian Christians

By November 12, 2009

India (MNN) — New anti-conversion legislation coupled with more "extreme" Hindu extremist cells rising up across India make the future of Christians throughout the country look much more challenging.

First, "To further its campaign against Christianity, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded an amendment in the Indian constitution to check religious conversions," according to Christian Today.

While seven states across India already have anti-conversion legislation, if this amendment passed, all of India would have to abide by its regulations and not just scattered states throughout the country.

The good news for Christians is that BJP has slowly been losing steam and political sway, following two consecutive defeats in India's general elections at the hands of the Indian National Congress (Congress). Thus, the legislation brought forth probably will not pass.

However, already the laws in the seven states prevent Christians not only from witnessing to individuals, but believers can be accused of bribery and even be sent to prison for simply aiding individuals with physical needs.

"What Satan is trying to do here is preventing the church from helping people, preventing the church not just from conversions but also from extending any kind of physical help because anytime you help someone, that could be called an 'inducement,'" said Dave Stravers of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India.

Because of this, individuals in need of help from the Church, especially those with handicaps, have been struggling. For example, Sundar, a 25-year-old man who is totally blind, recently accepted Christ as his Savior. Wanting to make his faith public, he wants to be baptized. However, government officials are closely monitoring him and if they see any signs of manipulation or allurement, they could send the pastor who baptizes him to jail.

In addition to anti-conversion legislation, accompanying the good news of BJP slowly losing ground and facing "a potentially uncertain and unstable future," according to Christian Today, there is also more bad news for Christians.

As BJP loses popularity, new extremist groups who claim to breakaway factions of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu extremist umbrella organization, are launching their campaign against Christians. These groups go by names such as the Abhinav Bharat (Pride of India), the Rashtriya Jagran Manch (National Revival Forum) and the Hindu Dharam Sena (Army for Hindu Religion).

These new organizations viewed RSS and BJP as "too mild," according to Baptist Press, and they advocate increased violence against Christians. These beliefs have been supported in their actions with several attacks in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Jabalpur since 2006.

As persecution worsens in India, Christians need to step up and not be afraid to share their faith, Stavers said.

Also, though many actions are restricted, Christians can still do several things to reach the searching of India.

"There are some things that Christians can do which the government officials really cannot oppose. We have a literacy project, and this is such popular outreach that local officials simply accept it," Stravers said. Because of the illiteracy rate in India, especially among women, government officials and even Hindus realize how needed these reading programs are.

In fact, Stravers said Hindus will sometimes even come to the defense of Christians if government officials put up a fuss.

Pray for believers throughout India as they still try to share Christ's love in the face of so much danger. Pray that they will be bold and unafraid to share.

Visit Mission India's Web site for updates about this situation, as well as information on how you can support believers in India.

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