Increased Persecution in India: An Interview
Though it's not on the radar of many in the West, persecution in India has spiked in the last few months. There are several reasons for this, and it is interesting to see non-Christian news covering the issue as much as Christian sources. Persecution not only affects Christians; but Muslims as well.
Re-conversion efforts, known as Ghar wapsi, have been attempted and implemented by a group called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS is a radical Hindu group that has been known to persecute Christians and Muslims for decades.
Now that India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has come into power, many believe this has emboldened the group. Modi is a former RSS member and retains ties to the group.
In this interview, an American Harvest Bridge supporter and friend, Andrew, who is currently living in Tamil Nadu, India, shares his observations of the increased pressure Christians and Muslims are facing:Were there fears about increased persecution after Prime Minister Modi came into power? Were they worried of his connection with RSS?
“Even before Modi won the election [in May, 2014], I remember [an Indian HB partner] explaining the situation to me over the phone with audible concern and asking for prayers. After the fact, my conversations with Christians in different regions of the country reveal a general fear about the possibility of increased persecution. From what I can tell, other religious minorities…are on edge also....Their concerns are validated by the Prime Minister's deafening silence when persecution and/or derogatory statements toward minorities make the news. He's not actively vocalizing support for these actions, of course, but silence/inaction is being interpreted by many as silent approval".
Was the RSS claim of implementing re-conversion widely publicized in your area? What sources did it come through? Newspaper, word of mouth, posters?
"I live in Tamil Nadu, one of the states with a larger population of Christians. To my knowledge, RSS had no formal plans for implementing re-conversion campaigns here. RSS is active in Tamil Nadu, however, and seems to be much bolder than [previously]. Examples include pressure on several churches…to either relocate or "quiet down" during services, pressure on young believers in less-reached tribal areas to renounce their faith, and even a death threat to a pastor planning to plant a second church in Chennai....
Friends in the north (Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, etc.) did encounter the claim of re-conversion programs directly. Newspapers, posters, and word-of-mouth were all used....I think Christians and Muslims are the groups feeling the most pressure. Indian friends have affirmed this view."What exactly are Christians worried about? Physical attacks, rights being taken away, access to necessities being taken away, etc.?
"India's constitution guarantees religious freedom; this is unlikely to change under the new government, though parliament may well implement nationwide anti-conversion laws rather than leaving the matter to individual states....[There is a] disconnect…between what's on paper and what happens in practice."Will existing religious freedom laws be upheld?
"That's the concern Christians have. On a local level, it's entirely conceivable that believers could be attacked, prevented from accessing the village water supply, detained indefinitely at police stations etc. Indeed, such things have occurred in several northern states in the past several months."That you know of, is pressure coming just from the RSS, or other radical groups as well?
"RSS is big and tends to get the most publicity, but similar Hindu nationalist groups exist. My sense is that all such organizations feel emboldened in the new political landscape, and are therefore more likely to be aggressive in persecuting minorities."What is the best way for us to pray?
"This might sound crazy given my [statements] above, but this is perhaps the most exciting time in history to be a Christian in India. There are more believers than ever before, and church-planting efforts are now underway for many of the numerous [unreached people groups]. So the biggest thing that comes to my mind is to pray for God to use the current situation to refine, purify, sanctify, and grow His church.
History shows Tertullian's famous the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church' quote isn't always true - but it definitely has been true in many modern nations whose political environments don't favor Christianity. Cuba, North Korea, Iran, China - just to name a few. If the Chinese church can grow to ~100 million or more under Mao Zedong and subsequent Communism, the Indian church can certainly grow by preaching and living Christ in the face of opposition.
At the same time, as someone who hasn't suffered beyond verbal persecution and threats for my faith, I don't want to over-spiritualize persecution or minimize its raw brutality. Prayers for the Indian church in line with Paul's personal requests in Romans 15:30 and 2 Thessalonians 3:2 are crucial.
We must also pray for those who intend to harm Christians. They know not what they do, so let's ask God to forgive them, soften their hearts to the message we bring, and turn the persecutors into disciples willing to give everything for the cause of Christ."
Thank you for reading; please join us in prayer.
Here are just a few varied sources on the issue of re-conversion and persecution:Competing for People's Souls
RSS Reconverts 200 Agra Muslims
Christian Leaders Criticize India PM
Conversion Issue Rocks Parliament