Religious freedom may be on its way to India

By May 21, 2004

India (MNN) — Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi stunned India and the world by announcing she would not become prime minister as expected. Instead, Manmohan Singh was named prime minister, a soft spoken Oxford educated economist who is NOT a Hindu. He will be India’s first non Hindu prime minister.

Bibles for the World’s Rochunga Pudaite is pleased with Gandhi’s decision. “If Sonia Gandhi had become the prime minister there would have been tremendous opposition,” says Pudaite. Gandhi — a Roman Catholic born in Italy — “humbly declined” to seek the prime minister’s job on Tuesday after what she described as personal attacks on her heritage and faith. Her husband Rajiv Gandhi and her mother in-law Indira Gandhi were both assassinated in office, prompting many to believe fear was a factor in her decision.

The upset election in favor of the Congress Party ends years of domination by Hindu nationalists, who put pressure on Christians. Pudaite says, “We’ve seen more persecution in the last few years than any other time in the history of India. In fact, any single year when the BJP was in power you’ll find there was more persecution than 20 years put together.”

However, because a secular government is now in place, Pudaite hopes persecution will decrease. “We’re very, very excited about what God is going to do. And now, there is going to a wide open door of opportunity for the church in India that we have never had before and we have to seize every opportunity,” says Pudaite.

The change is already being felt on the state level. Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister has overturned its anti conversion law after their majority party suffered incredible losses in the national elections. Analysts says the moves seem to be aimed at wooing voters well before the state elections due in two years..

Bibles for the World uses telephone directories to send Bibles to homes around the world. Pudaite says this perceived new freedom could allow for millions of opportunities as there are 42-million telephone subscribers in India. Funding is all that’s preventing them from putting God’s word into their hands.

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