For the first time ever, India has entered the top ten of the World Watch List, at number 10.
The BJP-led government promotes an extremist militant Hindu message. To put it simply, the message is that to be Indian, you have to be Hindu.
Eight states out of 29 have passed ‘anti-conversion’ laws, which include such draconian regulations as requiring anyone who wants to change religion to give a month’s notice to local officials, and to submit to a government interview.
New or revised laws and regulations have been used to attack or close ‘foreign’ institutions such as Christian-led schools, hospitals, orphanages and charities. For example, all children’s homes run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were told they must submit to inspection after a nun and a staff member in one home were accused of child trafficking.
Rise in violence
Since Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014, the level of persecution of Christians has dramatically increased. Every year more violent incidents are registered.
In reporting period for the 2019 World Watch List, solely from documented incidents, at least 12,500 Christians and about 100 churches have been attacked. At least 200 people have been arrested solely for their faith, and at least 10 have been killed. However, many incidents go un-documented, so true figures could be much higher.
Hindu militants target church leaders, beat them up, and try to force them out of their villages. The latest trend is not only to threaten the church leader, but also to threaten or rape his wife, and even his young children. How do they get away with this? Mainly because authorities like the police and local officials just turn a blind eye, especially when a mob is involved.
Militant Hindus see Christians as a threat to the nation because of their growth in numbers and strong presence in the tribal regions. Discrimination is also very common, based on the age-old caste system. It affects Christians all over India because most converts to Christianity come from the lower and ‘untouchable’ (Dalit) castes.
Healings and help
And yet, despite fierce opposition, the church in India is growing, with many coming to faith after experiencing healings.
Sohan even saw people being healed and coming to faith in prison. He was imprisoned under the anti-conversion laws in place in his state. He 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. 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. I give thanks to your organisation for your help.”
Stand with your church family in India
Please pray for our church family in India, that they will have the strength to continue to stand through the persecution they face, and that God will continue to work through Open Doors local partners to reach those most in need of help and support.
You can also provide practical support for persecuted believers. In partnership with local churches, Open Doors strengthens the Indian church through providing emergency aid, training, Bibles, advocacy support, and legal seminars. Every £22 could resource a local Rapid Response team for a month as they bring emergency aid to victims of violence, such as food and medical care.