The World Watch List is about the big picture - the facts and figures, the global trends. But the big picture is made up of millions of individual faces. Like Ajay, a young Indian Christian who has experienced 8 years of persecution, yet still says God has blessed him in countless ways.
Ajay is 21. When he was four years old, his Hindu parents sent him to live with his grandparents for economic reasons. He lived with them for nine years. One day, when he was 13, one of his cousins told Ajay about Jesus. Something in him immediately responded to the message, and Ajay became a Christian.
Then his mother died, his father remarried and Ajay returned home. But when his father and step-mother discovered that he had become a Christian, they began a campaign of intimidation, abuse and violence.
Open Doors workers met Ajay at an Open Doors 'Standing Strong Through the Storm' seminar for young Christians in eastern India. Over 200 young people gathered from persecuted areas to discuss the theme of 'Imitating Christ'. They sang praises with all their strength. They prayed loudly and with passion. Yet they were all there because they were suffering for their faith.
Because there is a cost for all those who seek to truly imitate Christ. For Ajay, for example, it cost him his relationship with his father.
As the oldest son, Ajay was expected to sacrifice to the Hindu gods, but he refused. Ajay was beaten severely every time his Hindu father caught him reading his Bible.
When he was only 16, his father forced Ajay to marry a Hindu girl. This, his father reasoned, would force him back to Hinduism. But the plan backfired. After living with Ajay for a few months, his young wife also committed herself to love and follow Jesus.
So Ajay's father decided to take the ultimate step: he disowned his son completely. The family refused to even allow the young couple to eat with them. They were totally isolated and forced to live on opposite sides of the same house.
Evicted from the family
Soon things took an even darker turn. Ajay's four younger brothers threatened him with death if he did not reconvert to Hinduism. They even came to kill him, but by God's grace he was not at home that day. So they contented themselves with throwing all of his and his wife's personal effects out of the house. Evicted by their own family, the couple were forced to find a small room to live in.
And the ostracism continued. Ajay's in-laws also excluded them. Even the grandparents with whom he had lived for nine years rejected him and his wife at the request of his father. The couple now have a son. Their toddler, too, is completely excluded from the family.
Even within the wider village they face abuse and discrimination. When Ajay's wife goes to the village well to pump water, she is refused access because she's a Christian. He and his wife are one of only three Christian families in a community of 200 Hindu families.
'God is blessing me in countless ways!'
All of that could so easily lead to bitterness and despair. And yet the Open Doors worker who met Ajay in India wrote this:
"For the eight years he has been a Christian, he has never gone a day without some form of persecution. I tried to be sympathetic and asked him where he gets the spiritual strength to stand strong in the face of this opposition. In response, he grinned and said, 'God is blessing me in countless ways!'"
With the rise of Hindu extremism, India rose four places on the 2016 World Watch List: more than 350 Christians were physically attacked, at least nine Christians were killed for their faith and at least three women were raped in the reporting year. Please pray for Christians in India and for all the men, women and children of our persecuted church family who make up the World Watch List. And read about other representatives of persecuted Christians from around the world who really need your prayers and support.
Source: Open Doors
- For Christians in India, facing increasing persecution and pressure
- For the leadership of the country, that they would uphold and not curtail religious freedom
- For the work of Open Doors in India, in supporting and training vulnerable believers.