Persecution in India. Who is doing it? What is the government’s response?
ROLE OF RELIGION IN POLITICS
In the largest democracy of the world, the biggest deciding factor in elections is religion. One of the simplest ways to draw the focus of the masses away from developmental issues is to tell them that their religion is in danger.
In the Indian two party system of politics, the main players are the Congress party and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). The ruling party of the day is the BJP and it came into power four years ago by presenting itself as the protector and defender of Hinduism or more accurately “Sanatam Dharma”. They told the people that their religion is under attack by Muslims and Christians.
They were told Muslims are converting Hindus through what is known as love Jihad. This basically means that Muslim men systematically target and entrap Hindu women in their love trap. They then marry and force them to convert to Islam and thereby eradicate entire future generations of Hindus.
In Muslim majority states, like Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslims give the Hindus ultimatums to either convert or go somewhere else. In return, Hindus propagated stories of Muslims eating beef, killing cows and throwing them in front of temples, which resulted in mob lynchings of many innocent Muslims and communal riots throughout the country.
The above-mentioned propagandas mix half-truths with lies, putting a religious twist on the stories. For example, if a Hindu girl falls in love with a Muslim man, it is automatically assumed that she was deceived and trapped due to Jihad.
When it comes to Christians, the BJP narrative is that Christians convert poor Hindus by offering them a bag of rice. This has led them to label these new Christians the “Rice Christians”. To understand this mindset, you have to understand the mind of a Hindu.
A Hindu does not know the love of Jesus. Hence, it is difficult for many of them to understand why someone would change their religion. As a result, they come up with made up stories about Hindus who believe the Gospel and turned to Christ.
Article 25 in The Constitution Of India, we have the fundamental right of freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. We are not forbidden by law to change our religious belief. Yet, this does not stop Hindu radicals.
In August, 2017 this full page advertisement appeared in a local paper of one of the states along with a picture of Mahatma Gandhi and the Chief minister of that state. It read,
“If Christian missionaries think that a person can get salvation only through converting to Christianity, then why don’t you start this work beginning with me or Mahadev Desai (Gandhi’s Personal Secretary)? Why are you emphasizing religious conversion of these simple, innocent, ignorant and poor Dalits and Tribals? They can’t even differentiate between Jesus and Mohammad and are not even capable of understanding your religious teachings. They are as mute and simple as a cow. These innocent and illiterate Dalits and Tribals whose poverty you are milking and are making them Christians; they do not become Christians because of Jesus but because of ‘rice’ that is for their stomach.” (Translated)
As you might be thinking, they give very little credit to the poor (lower caste) Hindus of having a mind of their own or having the capability of thinking for themselves and making rational conscious decisions. These Hindu radicals use outrageous claims to try and stop the Gospel from advancing.
In the unreached tribal corners of India, very little development has taken place for centuries. This happened to keep people unaware of their rights so politicians can easily control them. But, when the people are being helped by Christians and shown a better way, the politicians become afraid. As a result, the political groups retaliate, using violence against anyone preaching the gospel openly or baptizing in the name of Jesus.
Persecution in India varies from city to city and state to state, but it does exist everywhere. Some States have enacted anti-conversion laws, where a person needs to inform the government in writing one month before he or she intends to change his or her religion. During this period, a person and his family may be visited by the local political leaders and interrogated about the reason for their conversion. Usually, they are threatened with being ostracized or physical violence if they do not yield.
I want to make you aware that the persecution I am writing about comes only from political groups, not from individuals. If you share the Gospel with an individual and he does not like your message, he will simply ask you to go away and never show your face to him again. He will not necessarily harm you physically. The general exception to this rule is that they will harm you if you deliberately insult their religion or god. Sadly, there are few unwise evangelists who do this.
Your prayers are needed for my country. As the body of Christ in India, we need God’s strength to be strong. We need to intentionally love our neighbors as we love ourselves so that the Gospel can penetrate the mass number of Gospel Deprived peoples in my country.
As a missionary with Silk Road Catalyst, I invite you to partner with us in prayer and finances so we may be empowered to multiply disciples and churches deeper into the Hindu and Muslim communities of India.
To partner with my team in South Asia and the work Silk Road Catalyst is doing here, click here to get involved.