The radical hope of Christians in India

August 3, 2022 by David Curry in Persecution updates

Pastor Shekhar* was arrested, jailed, tortured and told to leave his home with his family, simply because they are Christians in India.

Despite the pain, sadness, fear, and emotional and physical toll, Pastor Shekhar resolutely says, “I cannot stop serving God. I cannot live without God because I’ve surrendered my whole life to Him.”

It’s a radical statement. But it’s the power of God at work across India, one of the hardest places in the world for Christians to live.

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In the United States, we’re blessed to have the freedom to attend church and worship Jesus, largely without repercussion. But for millions of Christians around the world, even in democratic countries like India, that opportunity to worship freely is often not the reality.

Article 25 of India’s constitution promises freedom of religion and conscience—but in actuality, religious minorities, including Christians, are targeted, oppressed, attacked and even killed. I hear these heartbreaking stories almost weekly. In fact, India has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, ranked No. 10 on the 2022 World Watch List, its third consecutive year in the top 10. Just eight years ago, it was ranked No. 28.

A recent Pew survey sheds some light on the current state of these religious realities in India, where an extremist strain of Hindu nationalism has emerged. While most Indians (and Hindus) say they are tolerant of other faiths, there’s a significant minority of hardliners who reject Christians as neighbors or even as Indian: 64% of Hindus in the survey say it’s important to be Hindu to be “truly Indian.”

The stats are one thing—but the real people behind the stats, like Pastor Shekhar, show how devastating the situation in India is. Mehr* is another example. She’s a young Indian woman in her 20s who has endured severe verbal and physical violence and was even denied hospital treatment because of her belief in Jesus. Yet her faith has been unshakeable. “Their words hurt momentarily, but my unexplainable joy in Christ overpowered all the opposition. The persecutors haven’t come across Christ. I believed and prayed that they would experience Jesus the same way we did,” Mehr says.

When I hear the stories of Mehr and Shekhar, I’m reminded again of both the urgent nature of our work and prayers—and the incredible hope of Jesus that our Indian family still looks to.

It’s easy to become discouraged when we hear of situations like these, when it seems like government officials look the other way as religious minorities are brutalized. But persecution of the Church shouldn’t come as a surprise. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” In India, this passage of Scripture isn’t just a nice sentiment—it’s a promise Christians cling to as they endure persecution, abuse and violence.

Believers like Mehr and Pastor Shekhar give me hope and encouragement, knowing that despite their incredibly difficult circumstances, they not only cling to faith but even pray that their persecutors would also come to know the joy of knowing Jesus. They are under great pressure, but they worship with great joy.

When we stand with Indian believers, we help them know they aren’t alone, strengthening their faith so they can live out the truth of Jesus’ promise: that anyone persecuted for following Him is “blessed.” When we do so, we can see how God is at work in India, restoring hope and joy through His people. No matter how governments may rule, Jesus is our message, and Jesus is our hope.

To discover more incredible stories like Pastor Shekhar’s, click here to download Open Doors’ free magazine, Presence.

*Names changed to protect identity

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