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India: Prison conversions and miraculous healings

26 June 2017

"The villagers crowded around us and started punching and kicking us, all over our bodies. They asked us to praise Hindu gods and goddesses. We refused. They kicked us harder."

This is what happened to Sohan*, pictured below, after he decided to follow Jesus and began sharing the gospel with others. His story isn't unusual. Last year over 800 Christians were physically attacked, and this year that number is likely to be even higher. The rise of Hindu extremism means Christians are facing increasing levels of discrimination and attack.

But God is at work. Many are coming to faith after experiencing miraculous healings, and imprisoned believers have seen God use them to reach their fellow prisoners with the gospel. Your prayers and support are making an incredible difference to our brothers and sisters - Sohan says, "You have strengthened the persecuted people and show you are standing with them."

Sohan

PREACHING IN PRISON

After Sohan was beaten, his attackers called the police and accused him of converting people to Christianity; there are anti-conversion laws in five of India's states, and they are frequently abused in order to harass and arrest minorities, including Christians. "I was shivering with fear, but I was praying," says Sohan.

He was imprisoned for four days, but he saw God work in amazing ways. Sohan says, "I preached the gospel and prayed for an inmate who was sick. He was healed and believed in Christ instantly. My other cell mate was a person suffering from intense depression. He kept saying that he wanted to kill himself. I prayed for him and the suicidal thoughts left him. He also accepted Christ.

"The third person I met was a young man falsely accused of raping a woman. He also used to remain very upset and felt hopeless about his life. I shared the gospel with him, and he also accepted Christ inside the prison. This way I saw God's immense power and deliverance."

Thanks to your support and prayers, Open Doors partners were able to help bail Sohan out of prison, and are helping him to fight the false claims filed against him. He has returned to his village, and lives among the people who beat him so brutally and had him arrested.

Despite everything he has been through, he is determined to continue following Jesus. "I suffered with many physical ailments and financial troubles before I became a Christian. Now I have freedom from all those problems and have a new life. This new life I will live only for Him, even if it includes persecution," he says. "I give thanks to your organisation for your help."

'WE NEVER ANTICIPATED RESISTANCE'

It is the healing power of God that is drawing many to faith in Jesus in India. This was the case for Mohan*, pictured below, after his father became sick. He says, "We did everything we could to appease the gods. We sacrificed hens, goats and pigs. We prayed to the gods, but we all felt miserable.

"One of the villagers had become a Christian and he told us we should stop worshipping the idols and our ancestors. We should pray to Jesus instead. When we did, my father was healed. There was no more sickness in my family. Of course, we followed Jesus after that. To be honest, we never anticipated resistance."

But resistance did come. Mohan says, "The villagers saw we were happy and healthy. They asked what was happening. We explained that we now followed Jesus. They did not like this and asked us to leave the village."

Mohan's family didn't leave, and in the ten years since they came to faith, they have faced repeated discrimination and attack. Fifteen men came to their house, tied his parents' hands behind their backs, and forced them to stand in a pool of water up to their shoulders until Mohan's brothers could pay for their release. The couple were kept like this for 17 hours. When Mohan got married, local people forced him and his wife to take part in a Hindu marriage ceremony, and would not allow them to perform a Christian wedding. When Mohan's father died, their Hindu relatives wouldn't allow him to be buried in the village; Mohan's family had to bury him in the jungle.

But your support has been vital for Mohan and his family. After the attack on Mohan's parents, our local partners were able to pay for their medical expenses. "Without your support, they would have died," Mohan says.

Our local partners have also been able to give Mohan's pastor training on the legal rights of Christians and the responsibilities of the police. Many believers are uneducated and don't know about their rights or even that the police are supposed to help them, so such training is vital.

Earlier this year, after Mohan was harassed about his Christian faith by a group of drunk men carrying sticks, Mohan's pastor supported Mohan to take this incident to the police. At first the police refused to help, but eventually a police official told the villagers that Mohan is allowed to be a Christian, and they must stop persecuting him.

Mohan feels much safer now. He says, "I don't have to move to another village. Three other families who were pushed out of the village are seriously considering coming back. I thank all the brothers and sisters who sent me their help and prayed for me."

Mohan

Support your church family in India

Open Doors local partners are facing increasing challenges as they carry out their work - they are monitored more closely, face greater pressure from the government, and it is becoming more dangerous for them to travel. And yet, they are determined to keep following Jesus and serving His people, and as the needs of our church family grow, we are scaling up our work. The church in India needs our prayers and support now more than ever.

One of the ways that we assist persecuted believers is through Rapid Response teams. These are teams of local volunteers who can help to provide urgent aid such as food and medicines, as well as providing legal advice, immediately after an attack. Open Doors partners have been working with local churches in India since 2000, and our network of contacts and years of experience enable our partners to respond quickly when incidents of violent persecution occur.

Our partners are also providing longterm assistance, such as vocational training to help believers to support themselves, adult literacy programmes, and legal training so that believers can understand their rights and how to take persecution cases to the police - this is the training Mohan's pastor received.

After the incredible response to our appeal for our brothers and sisters in India last year, we have been able to increase our work in India by 75 per cent this year. But none of this work would be possible without your prayers and gifts, and as levels of persecution increase in India, more of our brothers and sisters will need support. Please stand with your church family in India in prayer and action.

Please pray:

  • For strength, courage and protection for our brothers and sisters in India
  • For healing for those who have experienced violent persecution
  • For energy and wisdom for Open Doors partners as they step up their efforts to support persecuted believers
  • For God to change the hearts of those who are persecuting Christians, and turn them to Himself.

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*names changed for security reasons

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Find out more about persecution in India.