India nominally allows freedom of religion; unfortunately, Christian persecution is on the rise as converts are beaten and harassed, pastors are shot and believers are put under house arrest by their own family because of their faith in Jesus.
In fact, Open Doors has recently put India on its World Wide Watch list for its increased lack of tolerance for the nearly 64 million Christians in the country.
Following is an update on why Christians in India are being persecuted more than ever, what forms of persecution are the most commonplace and how Indian Christians are faring in the nation.
Why the Increased Persecution?
Perhaps the single biggest reason persecution of Christians and other religious minorities is on the rise in India is the election of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The prime minister’s political party is the BJP, a devout Hindu faction that is well-known for its strong stance against minority religions.
As Open Door directory David Curry accurately points out, Prime Minister Modi and his advisors have a thinly veiled agenda to drive out Christianity from the subcontinent by the year 2025. His advisors have been caught bragging about injustices that have been perpetrated against Christians, and the prime minister has taken it on himself to shut down Christian NGOs such as Compassion International that have been supplying food, medical care and other forms of assistance to the needy.
Persecution Takes on Many Forms
Persecution against Indian Christians takes on many forms. The community that has been hardest hit has been those who have converted from Hinduism to Christianity.
Neighbors and even unconverted family members have put enormous pressure on recent converts to turn back to Hinduism. Those who refuse to do so are frequently beaten or even killed; others are forced to take part in Hindu rituals against their will.
Pastors and active Christians who share God’s Word with others have also been routinely targeted. Pastor Sultan Masih was shot dead in the presence of his congregation as he stood outside his church. Pastor Aadarsh was dragged into the forest and beaten to death a couple of months ago for encouraging youth to get an education rather than join the militant Naxalites; once again, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
Even Christians who have organized meetings in their own homes for fellow believers have been targeted by angry Hindu neighbors.
Economic pressure is also applied to believers and recent converts alike. This is especially true in India’s many villages where justice is almost nonexistent except when it is to the headman’s convenience.
It has been reported that many Christian farmers are being denied water to irrigate their crops, leading to devastating financial ruin. In some instances, Hindu neighbors simply refuse to sell water from their wells to Christians in spite of the fact that Christians are more than willing to pay the current rate. Local governments either look the other way, or openly approve of the practice.
Legal problems also beset many active Christians. It is currently against the law in five Indian stats to convert Hindus to Christianity, and the BJP has been pushing to make conversions illegal throughout the country. Those who disobey the law against converting people face jail time, beatings and other forms of mistreatment.
How Christianity is Faring in India
While the suffering of fellow Christians in India is certainly heartbreaking, the good news is that persecution has not in any way stopped people from accepting Jesus Christ into their hearts.
God has poured out His power on His people and many individuals are coming to Jesus as a result of miraculous healings. Furthermore, many Hindus are attracted to Christianity because it offers them the dignity and acceptance that simply cannot be found in Hinduism.
While Hinduism preaches a rigid caste structure, the Bible clearly states that all men are made in God’s image and are therefore worthy of respect.
Christians are faced with many challenges in India that one non-Christian ex-army officer has recently described as a “Hindu Pakistan”. Even so, God’s grace is shining through as His children hold fast to their faith in the face of opposition and many others come to know Jesus through their witness.
~ 1776 Christian