Though there are around the same number of Christians in India as there are people in the UK, with 67.4 million Christians, it’s still less than five per cent of the population of India, which is almost 1.4 billion people.
Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus, and that the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam.
They use extensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians from a Hindu background. Christians are accused of following a ‘foreign faith’ and even blamed for bad luck in their communities. These believers are often physically attacked and sometimes killed, as well as being under constant pressure from their family and community to return to Hinduism. If they do not ‘reconvert’, they may be boycotted by their community, with a devastating effect on their ability to earn income. Many believers are isolated and don’t know any other Christians.
Christians are persecuted in all areas of public and private life, and anti-conversion laws (currently in nine states, with more considering adoption) are abused to harass and intimidate Christians.
“As I was locked in isolation, I realised I had more time for communion with the Lord and I waited with patience, praying and thanking the Lord for everything.”Gaurav
Gaurav (name changed) was falsely accused of forcing people to convert to Christianity. Few people are actually convicted under these laws, but cases can drag on for years. He was one of the unluckiest ones – he was imprisoned for four months, along with two of his friends.
When they were finally released, it took them three years to prove their innocence. “Meanwhile, I and my friends had no proper jobs,” says Gaurav. “We were viewed as criminals by our community and no one wanted to associate with us.”
God didn’t abandon them, even while they faced tough opposition from their community. Open Doors partners were able to help with essentials, as well as guidance for the court case. “God is so faithful,” says Gaurav. “We lacked nothing – He is so good!”
The pandemic has brought further challenges. In April 2021, the country recorded its highest daily figure for deaths as well as a global high for daily Covid-19 cases. Shortages of oxygen and medicines are rampant, even forcing some people to search for supplies of oxygen on the black market where prices are very high. It means the poor – including many Christians – are at grave risk of not getting access to vital care.
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in India?
Persecution in India has increased significantly over the past five years, and has now remained relatively unchanged for the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic has offered a new weapon for persecutors, though, and Christians are often deliberately overlooked when official Covid-19 food and aid is distributed. This has left many desperate for food, particularly since many Christians are from the Dalit caste and thus very poor, and have lost their sources of income this year.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in India. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local church partners to strengthen the Indian church through providing emergency aid, persecution survival training, Bibles, livelihood and community development, advocacy support and legal training.
Lord, thank You that faith is growing in India despite so much opposition faced by Christians in public and private life. Please keep bringing new believers to faith, and give strength and resilience to Christians from a Hindu background. Frustrate the plans of Hindu extremists who want to rid the country of other faiths, and change the hearts of those in power. Amen.
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