India (MNN) — People playing the arcade game “Whack-A-Mole” use a rubber hammer to force plastic moles back into hiding. It’s similar to what a powerful Hindu group is doing to India’s Christians.
“The Hindu nationalist movement, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) … has organized a nationwide network of people to report Christian activity,” Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says. What is the RSS?
“They want to have radical Hindu nationalists stationed in every one of India’s villages… watching for Christian activity, watching for the Gospel to be going forward, and then actively trying to strike that down.”
Why RSS targets believers
Persecution of religious minorities spiked when Prime Minister Modi came to office in 2014 and has maintained record highs ever since. A report issued last fall describes more than 1,000 attacks on Christians between 2014 and 2019.
Religious freedom violations aren’t severe enough yet to garner India a “Country of Particular Concern” designation by the USCIRF. However, as described here in the Commission’s 2019 report, the USCIRF is keeping a close eye on the world’s largest democracy:
Over the last decade, conditions for religious minorities in India have deteriorated. A multifaceted campaign by Hindu nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution. Those targeted by this campaign—including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and lower-caste Hindus—face challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation to the loss of political power, increasing feelings of disenfranchisement, and limits on access to education, housing, and employment.
VOM recently sat down with Christian leaders in India to learn more about conditions on the ground. “One of our staff members… brought back a report that is both scary and encouraging,” Nettleton says.
The “scary part” involves RSS’s rising power and influence. “The RSS has gained more and more authority under Prime Minister Modi. [They are] being very strategic about placing people in government offices in the legal system, the courthouse … all of these different influential positions of the country,” Nettleton says.
With RSS members in positions of power, supporters encountered little resistance when implementing their reporting system.
Under this system, RSS members can examine every village in India for a Christian presence.
“‘Is there missionary activity going on in this village? Is there somebody handing out Bibles or preaching the Gospel, or gathering people for worship? Here’s the phone number that you call to report that kind of activity and we’ll take care of it’,” Nettleton describes as an example.
How to help
It’s a bleak development, but there is a silver lining. “Indian Christians are concerned about the direction their government is going,” Nettleton acknowledges.
“But, they are also reporting that God is still at work, and our churches are still growing – in spite of this Hindu nationalist movement, in spite of the power that Prime Minister Modi and his government have.”
Click here to help persecuted Christians through VOM USA. Most importantly, pray.
“When you look at the situation and you see the opposition, it would be very easy [for Christians] to step back and say, ‘Hey, this is a time to lay low’,” Nettleton says.
“Let’s pray that they stay encouraged and stay bold in their witness for Christ.”
Furthermore, “let’s pray for the persecutors,” Nettleton suggests.
Pray for Indian officials, and even Prime Minister Modi himself, to have a radical life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Pray these individuals will come to know Jesus in a personal way and that this encounter would change the entire nation.
“Let’s pray that God will supernaturally and miraculously reach the hearts of some of these government officials,” Nettleton says.
Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy Timon Studler via Unsplash.