India (MNN) — The unprecedented attack on Christians in
India continues. Mission India of Grand Rapids, Michigan, says the persecution
is being felt all over India. President of Mission India Dave Stravers says
they have recent reports from partners in eight states where church vandalism, beatings, and other crimes are taking place.
Stravers just received another reported case from church
planters in Punjab. "One new church had been started in a village with 25
believers. Hindu extremists came into the village, threatened the Christians,
and demanded that they reconvert to Hinduism."
Orissa is one of seven states in India which has strict
anti-conversion laws in place. It's also a state where Christians have faced
threats, been beaten, and even killed because of their faith in Christ.
Anti-conversion laws in Orissa State require new
Christians to get permission from the police to change religions and baptisms.
"This will definitely expose you to intimidation by other groups– not
necessarily police intimidation, although that can happen, too, but by these
very well-organized Hindu extremist groups," says Stravers
According to Stravers, Christians in Orissa state are not
seeking government approval to convert and be baptized, which he thinks is
good. "Intimidation is the main goal of the extremists. They know they
can't kill all Christians, but what they're trying to do is intimidate some of
the workers so they won't be witnessing so boldly; this would slow down the
growth of the church."
With 80-percent of the population of Orissa functionally
illiterate, literacy training is the most effective way Mission India is seeing
people come to Christ. The one-year course helps people attain a 5th grade
reading level, says Stravers. "And in the process, because our materials
are Scripture-based, they learn the story of creation, the fall, the life of
Jesus, and of course, the Gospel. And our experience is about 40-percent of the
class participants become Christians."
Stravers says literacy classes are being targeted by
extremists. One of their instructors was raped. "Many people in her class
had come to Christ, and the Gospel was getting a good reputation. In other
places we've had extremists go door-to-door and tell the students to stop going
to that class."
But because of the desire to learn how to read, many
Stravers says the program is popular.
"We have, right now, 200,000 students on the waiting list trying to get
into these literacy classes, and basically we're just lacking the funding."