Pray for the Persecuted 2020: Kashmir
Thank you for joining us in prayer for the persecuted church in South Asia each weekend of November, in a continuation of International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (November 1st)! We pray the stories and wisdom shared by our country leaders have been an encouragement and challenge in your own walk with God.
This final weekend of November, we share from leaders Sarah* and Pastor Peter* in Kashmir.
Kashmir has a long and complicated history, and we encourage you to learn more about this region!
Since 1947-48, when the newly-independent nations of India and Pakistan fought their first war over which country the Muslim-majority princely state of Kashmir would accede to, the portion of Kashmir controlled by India has been governed according to Article 370 of India’s constitution. Article 370 granted Kashmir substantial political and economic autonomy. However, in August 2019 India unexpectedly revoked Article 370 and placed Kashmir on strict lockdown to quell protests against the unpopular move. Due to years of militant insurgency and protest against Indian occupation, Kashmir is no stranger to curfews, internet blackouts and economic shutdown – but the lockdown starting in August 2019 became the longest on record, and just as it was beginning to be eased the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Kashmir is divided into three regions. Jammu is majority Hindu, Ladakh is majority Buddhist, and the Kashmir valley is majority Muslim. Sarah, Pastor Peter, and the other pastors and missionaries we support are working in the Kashmir valley. All but Sarah come from Muslim backgrounds, and so are well equipped to reach their staunchly religious community with the love of Jesus. They also know the dangers they face in following Jesus.
Sarah was a nominal Christian until her second daughter was miraculously born healthy after she and her husband were told their baby would die. It was then that she and her husband rededicated their lives to Christ. In the last two years, Sarah’s husband Mohan* has been forcibly taken back to his Muslim family, leaving Sarah do ministry and raise their daughters alone for now.
Pastor Peter*, whose birth name is Mohammad, describes his family’s reaction to him following Jesus,
"When my other family members, friends and relatives came to know about my faith in Christ, they became furious and started treating me like a dog. They often provoked me, stating that I had adopted the 'English religion'. Though I was treated harshly, I did not give up the faith, but wished to win my people for Christ."
Both Sarah and Pastor Peter have wisdom born of experience and intimacy with the Lord.
"'That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' (2 Corinthians 12:10)
As you may know, it is 99% Muslim orthodox in our Kashmir. In Islamic jurisprudence no other religion is allowed to preach, and if any Muslim wants to change his religion they kill that person, as the punishment of apostasy in Islam is death. Lots of people want to accept Christ, but due to persecution they remain silent.
But many people throughout the Kashmir valley accept Jesus as their personal saviour without fear of persecution that they will face. They always get ready to accept the persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ. Many of our brothers in Christ were beaten publicly, many were thrown out of their villages, many were imprisoned for months, many were dragged into courts and some were killed by militants. But by the grace of God no one lost their faith in Christ due to this persecution. In spite of all this, we all are becoming more firm in faith. We need to use wisdom to share the Gospel by the help of Lord Jesus Christ.
I request to you all to please pray for all of us who are sharing the Gospel message in this challenging state, that God gives us more strength and courage to face these challenges and help us in our difficulties.
Kashmir is a Muslim region, and Muslims believe that Jesus is just a human being and not divine. The belief that Jesus is the son of God and is God himself is considered the greatest sin according to the Quran. Also, Muslims believe that the present Bible is corrupted and distorted. This is the reason Muslims hate Christianity and don't want the spread of the Gospel in Kashmir.
According to the Bible, it is our pleasure to face persecution so that we will be like our Lord Jesus Christ and become citizens of the Kingdom of God.
'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.' (Mathew 5:10)
'In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.' (2 Timothy 3:12)
Being persecuted for faith is totally different than facing opposition for other reasons, because persecution for faith brings God's grace and blessings in our spiritual life - we will become more strong in faith and we experience our Lord Jesus Christ's love more. We might lose our material things, but we become more close to the Kingdom of God… We are not people of this world but the people of the Kingdom of God. As our Lord Jesus Christ faced persecution, we also need to face persecution."
Building on what Sarah shared, Pastor Peter adds,
"'Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.’ (Romans 12:14)
Thank you my brothers and sisters who are praying for our fellowship - that God may keep us safe in the midst of Muslims while preaching the Gospel to them, so that we can stand firm in our faith on Jesus Christ. Pray that God may grant us grace and anointing to preach and teach about the victorious Christian life in the midst of persecution.
The motivation during persecution comes from when we go through the Bible and see examples like Stephen's speech in Acts 6 & 7. Stephen spoke with wisdom and spirit - they put him to death on a charge of blasphemy.
In 2015 was the third time that I was persecuted and put in jail. It was a case of blasphemy, and the Mullahs put three false accusations on me. One, that when I converted a Muslim I put a seal of the cross on their back. Two, that I feed pig's blood in church services (during the Lord's Supper). Three, that I give or provide jobs to young Muslim men and women to make them Christians.
When a Muslim accepts Christ, it causes people to think and then they start to persecute the new believer. They cut off all the shares of the new believers' property. They tell new believers to leave the community. They create problems and persecute us. We have so many lived stories of how they persecute our believers in Christ.
Being persecuted for faith is the test of God from which we experience the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, but facing opposition for other reasons doesn’t give us any benefit.
Our master Jesus Christ says, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' (Matthew 10:28). I have a message to all my brothers and sisters who are facing persecution:
'Do not be afraid, as in the book of Acts early Christians were persecuted through isolation, attack, betrayals, imprisonment, and even death all around the world. My prayer is for suffering Christians; my brothers and sisters in Christ, you are not alone. The worldwide church is standing with you and praying for you.'"
Sarah & Pastor Peter
*Names changed for safety