Open Doors local partners in India are asking the worldwide church to join them in prayer as the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) returns to power.
Local church leaders told Open Doors contacts that the BJP government has already created a lot of problems for them in their work, and Indian Christians fear that the marginalisation of the country’s minorities will intensify.
"Now that the ruling party comes in again, Christians might have very difficult times," Sujal*, a church leader, said. "It will be difficult for the churches to function. There will be more violence against Christians. The BJP is a pro-Hindu party and is polarising the minds of Indians on the ground of religion, spreading communal disharmony. It rouses religious intolerance, promoting Hinduism, crowning it as the only religion in India and belittling Christians and Muslims as intruders."
INCREASING VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS
Since the BJP came to power in May 2014, Hindu nationalism, radical extremism and the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities have seen a dramatic rise. India’s Christians are expecting that so-called anti-conversion legislation, which prevents people from converting away from Hinduism to any other religion, will be implemented more rigorously and in more states. The inaction of the state or national authorities contributed to an increased level of impunity for Hindu radicals especially in BJP ruled states.
While Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, they have recorded 216 incidents in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders. These are just the incidents that Open Doors local partners have verified; it is likely that many other incidents have gone unreported because victims are afraid to speak out.
Henrietta Blyth, the CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: "It is an increasingly worrying time for Christians in India. Over the last five years they have experienced a significant level of violence, discrimination and intolerance against them. We hope that this second BJP victory will not be a mandate for increased persecution but will instead be an opportunity to heal the increasing divides in India."
In the elections the BJP-led Alliance won a clear majority in the Lok Sabha –the lower chamber of the parliament – which means that they will continue to oversee local administration of many cities, towns and villages.
India’s Christians are expecting that so-called anti-conversion legislation, which prevents people from converting away from Hinduism to any other religion, will be implemented more rigorously and in more states. In states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where those laws are in force, the persecution of Christians is already on the rise. Other states that have such a law are Uttarakhand, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Jharkhand. Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh have also passed similar legislation, but it has not been signed off by the state governor.
The nationalistic characteristics of the BJP stems from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) right-wing, Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation which has formed the BJP as its political wing. RSS is behind the promotion of the Hindutva ideology where "To be Indian is to be Hindu" is a leading theme. In this narrative, religious minorities, such as Christians and Muslims, are not considered Hindutva and are, therefore, thought of as foreigners. Worshippers from both religions have faced intense persecution at the hands of extremists.
'WE NEED THE SUPPORT OF THE GLOBAL CHURCH'
While many Christians in India are disappointed to see the BJP return to power, one church leader told Open Doors partners, "Most mature Christians are talking about God’s will. During these times, we believe what Proverbs 16:33 says: 'The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.' And we also meditate on Proverbs 21:1, which says, 'In the Lord's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.'"
Another believer told us, "I don’t support any party and have peace believing Romans 8:28, which says 'In all things God works for the good of those who love him.'"
A local church partner says, "We are not happy or sad. We trust the Lord is in control and He will help us through it all. Most of the Indians are happy that Modi is back. They believe he will bring about change. Some Christians are discouraged, yes, but they have also been preparing for this to happen. It is also true that neither Congress nor other parties work for the welfare of Christians. We would have faced opposition anyhow. So we instead prepare ourselves to face what God has prepared for us."
Another church partner, Pastor Samuel*, says, "It seems that at at the moment nobody can beat the BJP in the elections. We hope and pray that the international community will engage with the Indian government. It is possible that the Indian laws and even clauses in the constitution will be altered in this tenure, giving the government more tools to persecute minorities."
About the Indian church, he stated, "Indian Christians need the encouragement and support of the global church."
Please continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in India. Our local partners there have requested prayer: "Please pray for our government. Pray that they lead wisely. India is a country rich in diversity, like a garden with many different flowers. Pray that we will live in harmony. Also pray for the Christians, that they will faithfully pray for their government and country and that they will be accepted by the people around them."
In partnership with local churches in India, Open Doors provides emergency aid, training, Bibles, advocacy support, and legal seminars to people who have suffered persecution.
- That Indian Christians would be filled with peace and courage, and that they will be inspired to continue to pray for India and their government
- That God would surround and protect our brothers and sisters in India from any backlash that this result may cause
- For God’s Spirit to soften the hearts of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP government towards religious minorities, that they would allow more freedom of religion in the country.
*Name has been changed for security reasons