Like the Bengal tiger, persecution in India often hides in the long, tall grass, closer to the “prey” than they realize. Just like India’s national animal, Hindu extremists slowly and silently sneak toward their prey, always ready to surprise and devour Christians.
Meena and Sunita are two sisters from Odisha, formerly called Orissa, a region in India that is no stranger to persecution. “We knew about persecution in theory because the Bible speaks about it,” says Meena. “And when it happened, we thanked God for it.” The sisters came to faith through a Christian radio program. The first couple of years they worshiped in secret, listening to radio broadcasts. But in 2006 they were baptized and started to visit church services.
They experienced rejection, but the persecution storm reared its head for the first time about a year later when the villagers held a meeting. “They told each other that Christians were not to be tolerated in the village,” Meena told us. “They called our father and put him under pressure. He replied to them, ‘I will provide them with a room, but I won’t give them food or clothing.’ He did not lock us up, but in every aspect we had to take care of ourselves. The entire village rejected us, but we were blessed by the Lord.”
Then a few months ago, Hindus blocked their path and robbed them of a few buckets of berries. “Christians cannot pick berries,” they said. “You can’t draw water from the well either, nor can you make use of this road through the village.”
Meena, Sunita, and two other Christian ladies escaped to a hill where they hid until about midnight. For almost eight hours they could hear Hindus shout, “Where are they? Burn them! Burn them!”
After they felt safe, the Christian women went to another village, stayed with local believers, and then went to the police station the next day. Police officers contacted the villagers and agreed that a few days later the women could return for a “peace meeting.”
The sisters stopped first at their home where a woman began shouting at them and they were dragged outside and beaten with bamboo sticks. “They broke at least five or six of them on my back,” Meena recalled. “My sister tried to protect me, but she couldn’t. I just cried out to God, ‘Thank you, Lord! Jesus, please forgive them. They don’t know what they do!’” Meena prayed that God’s will would be done, no matter what. “I felt a tremendous joy. I was worthy to suffer for Jesus!” When asked how her faith had become so strong, she does not hesitate. “God gives us strength.”
As Sunita shared her experience, she closed her eyes and silently prayed. Her voice trembled like an out of tune string instrument as she explained how the bamboo broke her wrist, and how she was dragged from the village and left for dead.
“When the village lady came to our house, she shouted at us, ‘Why did you become Christians? We don’t want Christians here! Go to a Christian village!’ She hit me three times. Many other people came. My sister and I, we tried to protect each other, but we could not. They scolded us, called us vulgar names. I thought I would die. I endured the beatings in silence and prayed until I lost consciousness. They dragged me through the outskirts of the village. When I woke up, my wrist hurt terribly. I saw the broken bone; it stuck out. I got up and I left the village.”
Sunita hid in a goat shed until the attackers passed by. “I just prayed that my sister was still alive. I also prayed that God’s will be done. I told Him, ‘I can die or I can witness. Make me a weapon, Lord. Make me a witness for you.’”
Soon the badly wounded sisters reunited at the home of another believer’s house who urged them to go to another village for safety. Both sisters still live in hiding, Open Doors assisting with necessary supplies. “I thank the Lord for persecution,” said Meena. “God had warned us in advance that it would come and that He would take care of us. We were prepared. So thank you for praying and helping us. The Gospel was theory for us, but when persecution comes and you don’t backslide but witness for the Lord, you know it is for real. You help us stand strong.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Thank You, Father, for the saving faith of Meena and Sunita. We pray that You will surround them in Your strong arms of protection, but more than that we join them in their prayer that in whatever circumstance God places them, in whatever happens, You will make them a witness for Christ. Thank You for the testimony of their joy in suffering for their faith, in being found worthy of walking the path of suffering Christ walked. Daily grant them the courage and strength to face the opportunities and challenges that come before them. Open their eyes, and ours, to see You in the midst of all our circumstances. In the name of Jesus, who promised never to leave us or forsake us—Jesus our sure hope. Amen.