Christianity in India: Why the Danger Is Increasing
Christianity in India is facing more danger than ever before.
If you’ve been following the faith-based media headlines, you’ve likely heard about new challenges facing Christianity in India. But understanding today’s events can be difficult without first understanding some history.
Below is a quick primer to understanding the current situation and how it impacts Christians.
What is behind the recent hostility toward Christianity in India?
There is a fundamentalist Hindu political party in India called the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP. Earlier this year, they won the majority of seats in the state legislature in Uttar Pradesh, the most populated region of India.
As they gained influence, the BJP began passing anti-Christian legislation.
How did this party come into power?
In India, some parties have long been concerned about dwindling allegiance to Hinduism. A few years ago, for example, the senior leader of the World Hindu Council announced a new goal: to make the country 100% Hindu. “Currently there are 82% Hindus in India, and we don’t want this number to be halved,” he said, “We won’t tolerate Hindus becoming a minority in the country.”
The BJP, then, is well positioned to place restrictions on Christians.
What kinds of things are the BJP doing to stop Christianity in India from spreading?
In the past, the BJP supported extremist groups that attacked Christians in incidents such as the 2007-2008 riots where Hindu militants torched houses and churches, killing 91 Christians and wounding 18,000 others. 60,000 Christians were left homeless.
In 2013, 100 churches or worship gatherings were attacked and acts of violence were committed against 4,000 Christians.
Perhaps just as alarming as the attacks is that when India’s now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was asked about Christian persecution, he responded, “I have never heard of such incidents taking place.”
Since gaining majority influence, the BJP has pledged to introduce national legislation to restrict “missionary” activity and halt evangelism efforts.
In 2016, the All India Christian Council recorded an almost 20% increase in attacks against Christians, reporting a 40% rise in violence against Christians. They also found killings of Christians had doubled.
Churches have been vandalized, bombed, and set on fire, and church leaders have been beaten and threatened—all with the hope of forcing Christians to renounce their faith in Jesus.
How does this affect Christian organizations working in India?
Since 2014, when Prime Minister Modi took office, the government revoked the license of more than 11,000 non-governmental organizations that were accepting international funds. Western foundations, such as George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy are no longer permitted to transfer funds without prior authorization from Indian officials. And India’s largest single donor, the Christian organization Compassion International, for instance, has been banned for engaging in religious conversion. This will result in a loss of $45 million dollars a year that supported church-affiliated service centers and distributed aid to communities.
How does the ruling party impact Open Doors’ ministry specifically?
Open Doors is on the ground in India providing—among other things—training, discipleship, education, vital relief aid, and follow-up services to victims.
In the first 4 months of 2017, Open Doors partners in lndia’s local churches have reported 316 persecution incidents. Christians have been socially ostracized, expelled from their villages, and brutally beaten. Extremists have even attacked church members with large sticks and swords, seemingly demonstrating no fear of legal ramifications.
In many cases, the extremists openly declare that Christians have no right to preach or attempt to convert people in a Hindu country.
These events have caused Open Doors to name India as 15th on this year’s World Watch List 2017 which identifies the top countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith.
How can I pray for Christianity in India?
Pray for Indian believers who experience both violent persecution and intense cultural pressure to return to Hinduism. Christians are in need of support and relief as they are constantly pressued, and sometimes attacked, in efforts to force them to return to their previous Hindu beliefs. Ask God to protect those who are actively involved in preaching, evangelism, and outreach as they are at risk of being attacked by radical Hindu extremists.
Sign up to receive prayer updates on persecution in India and Christian persecution around the world.