‘Christians are suffering even more’: India during coronavirus

April 27, 2020 by Ryan Hamm in Persecution updates

On March 24, India’s Prime Minister announced a 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This sudden announcement gave India’s 1.3 billion citizens only hours to prepare for the lockdown that has become one of the largest and strictest in the world.

Amongst the activities prohibited by the national lockdown are religious gatherings. Many churches in urban areas are still sharing times of worship through livestreaming amidst the pandemic. However, for poorer churches in rural and suburban areas—which are often larger churches in number—this isn’t possible due to lack of resources and connectivity.

With fewer people being allowed to leave their homes, you might think that Christians in India would be experiencing lower levels of violence. However, Christians in rural areas face more opposition than ever from their communities because of their faith. Reports have surfaced of our brothers and sisters being falsely accused, threatened and attacked.

“The pandemic has not stopped the growing persecution against the Christians,” a local Open Doors partner shares. “There are many [Christians in India] who are [able] to use online streaming of worship, sermons and prayers, but the majority of the Christians in the rural areas are facing threats and persecution amid the lockdown.

“We are receiving news of persecution incidents from many areas, even in this situation where people have been ordered to stay inside their homes. In fact, we believe that during this phase of lockdown, Christians are suffering even more than before, since most of them have to now combat economic problems as well as the opposition and hatred from the community.”

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For Christians in India and around the world who are already persecuted for their faith, the global pandemic is making life even more difficult. They have less access to healthcare, medicines and community services. Open Doors is committed to standing with the least of these—to ensure that the vulnerable have what they need too. God’s people need our help urgently—will you give today?

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In one incident, a Christian brother named Shyam* and his family face constant opposition from his village. The villagers hurl hatred and abusive taunts, since Shyam and his family have refused to take the Ayurveda medicine—a type of alternative Hindu medicine—made by the villagers and a shaman in the area. The rumor is the medicine will keep the people safe from coronavirus and is being used by everyone else in the village. Anyone who won’t take the medicine is assumed to be infected with COVID-19. Since Shyam and his family haven’t taken the homeopathic remedy, they’ve been accused of secretly having coronavirus.

Persecution is even more difficult for secret believers who had previously looked for opportunities to get out of their homes to read their Bible or pray. A lady named Kavita* shares she faces severe abuses from her husband when she tries to read the Bible or pray in the house; she used to spend time secretly praying in the fields where she worked. With the lockdown in effect, it has become challenging for her to spend time in prayer.

In another recent incident, Vinay*, a Christian leader in a small village, was brutally attacked. He was returning to his home from a house prayer meeting when a few extremists caught him and threatened him. They also destroyed his bike and beat him badly. After the attack, when Vinay* approached the police to lodge a complaint, they refused to cooperate and sent him away without taking any action.

Indian believers receive much-needed emergency aid due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Indian believers receive much-needed emergency aid due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

One attack has taken place against an entire community of believers. Some local radicals forced the believers in the area to come to the village community hall. As the believers gathered, the villagers started beating them. While the Christians were being attacked, one of the believers called police, but the beatings continued. Christians in the area now live in intense fear.

During this incident, a girl went missing and so far, there is no news about her whereabouts. Even after a report was lodged with the police by the girl’s parents, the police took no action.

In perhaps the most serious incident reported during the lockdown, a girl named Jyothi* was shot by some extremists in the middle of April. While Jyothi and her family were inside their house, some unknown people forcefully entered and shot her in the arm and thigh. Given that Jyothi and her family had received threats already because of their Christian faith, the family believes the shooting was the work of religious extremists.

Reports like these are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Open Doors local partners report that there are many incidents that are going unnoticed due to the lockdown, poor connectivity and resources.

An Open Doors local partner says, “There is no doubt this is a time of wilderness for many of us, and the thing about this pandemic and lockdown is that we don’t know where it’s going to lead, how long our time is going to be. It seems that one day proceeds to another and there’s no end in sight. India needs more prayers than ever during this time.”

This is why Open Doors has mobilized to bring emergency aid and help to persecuted believers in India. If you’d like to help, click here.

In the meantime, please join us in praying for our sisters and brothers in India. Pray that:

  • God will protect His people
  • God will ease the sickness and death from coronavirus in India and around the world
  • Christians will be able to be salt and light, even in a very hard time and in in places where they are persecuted
  • Believers will have opportunities to pray and read the Bible without being harassed or abused
  • God will provide for His people who are starving and in need of financial help

*names changed for security reasons

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