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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. 

Sarah begins,

“‘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

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Countries

Kashmir

Kashmir

Kashmir is the newest region where we work. With a population of 13.5 million, this region is located in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. 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. Just as this lockdown was beginning to be eased, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and prompted further lockdown. 

Kashmir is divided into three regions. Jammu is majority Hindu, Ladakh is majority Buddhist, and the Kashmir valley is majority Muslim. Our main leaders, Peter* and Sarah*, and the other pastors and missionaries we support are working in the Kashmir valley. The majority are 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. 

In 2020, our support made it possible for local believers to provide several weeks’ worth of food and necessary hygiene supplies to 500 families – roughly 3,250 men, women, and children. These believers planted two additional Bible studies, and 13 new believers were baptized after deciding to follow Jesus. 

Capital: Srinagar & Jammu

Population: 13.5 million

Religion: Muslim 68.31%, Hindu 28.44%, Sikh 1.87%, Buddhist 0.90%, Christian 0.28%

Ministries: Pastor TrainingWomen’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise

Give directly to our Kashmir fund:

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Stories

Advancing the Kingdom in Kashmir

Without a doubt, the highlight of my visit to South Asia last month was my stay in Kashmir, a beautiful region that is disputed between India, Pakistan and China. 

The Indian-administered part of Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in Hindu-majority India.

When Britain left the Indian subcontinent in 1947, partitioning it into India and Pakistan, the ruler of Kashmir hesitated about which nation to join. Pakistan tried to take Kashmir by force, and India offered to help on the condition that Kashmir join India. Consequently, the region became contested. 

Three of the four wars fought between India and Pakistan have been over Kashmir. Kashmir’s natural resources and strategic location further boost its desirability. Its people have suffered greatly as pawns in a game of geopolitical chess. 

Earlier this month, in the latest “chess move”, India revoked Article 370, a constitutional provision which granted Kashmir substantial autonomy and helped preserve its distinct character by restricting the ability of outsiders to buy land or move there. India claims it revoked Article 370 to promote economic development, but locals fear this is the first step toward diluting Kashmir’s demographics in an effort to quell local separatist movements.

My heart breaks for Kashmir, in part because my experience there was the exact opposite of how it is portrayed in the media. 

I was met with warm hospitality, safety, and the opportunity to see God at work in so many encouraging ways.

Christians make up less than 0.3 percent of Indian-administered Kashmir’s population. 

They are effectively second-class citizens in a region where even the Muslim majority suffers in numerous ways due to India’s heavy-handed policies. Despite these obstacles, Harvest Bridge’s Kashmiri partners are amazing, resilient people who do inspiring work. Space permits me to highlight only a few examples. 

Pastor Peter*, the leader of our Kashmiri partners, came to faith in Christ 24 years ago after growing up in a Muslim sect that worships at the tombs of Islamic saints. He went on to earn a doctorate and now travels around India teaching comparative religion at universities – along with his involvement in Kashmiri Christian radio, publishing Christian literature, and leading a missionary network that labors to advance the Gospel in every sphere of Kashmiri society. 

He has been jailed three times, accosted by an angry mob, and falsely accused of serving pig’s blood in Communion. Yet he radiates joy and a contagious sense of humor. 

So many people we met spoke enthusiastically of the enormous positive impact Pastor Peter has made in their lives.

One such person is Brother Javed*, an imposing man who wears the beard and clothing characteristic of a mullah (Islamic scholar). 

Islam permits Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women, so when he fell in love with a Christian woman, his family did not oppose their marriage. He tried to convert her to Islam, but changed his mind after learning about Christianity’s teachings. His wife was from the same town as Pastor Peter, which brought Javed into contact with Peter. 

After 13 years of Gospel proclamation and demonstration from his wife, Pastor Peter and others, Javed came to faith. His family cut off contact with him as a result, and he now runs a tea stall for a living instead of working the comfortable government job he previously held. 

He continues to dress like a mullah, which opens numerous doors for ministry that are closed to others.

Then there’s Brother Fahad*. 

Born and raised Muslim, Fahad enjoyed reading religious scriptures as a boy. He read so much that he developed a reputation as a learned mullah (Islamic scholar) by age 17. He read about other faiths too, but their religious texts were difficult to obtain in the Kashmir Valley. One day he found a New Testament on the road, and read it cover-to-cover within a few days. 

After reading Hindu and Baha’i scriptures as well, he left Islam and became agnostic. When Kashmir received internet access, he began watching videos of Christian philosophers and apologists like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. 

Through these videos, he came to faith in Christ.

Young and fearless, he began debating openly with mullahs, atheists, and members of other faiths. He can easily share his faith because of his reputation as a scholar, but he routinely faces opposition from local mullahs. 

Staggeringly he held Christian beliefs for 14 years before meeting another Kashmiri Christian – an indication of how few there are. In 2014, he met Pastor Peter, who baptized him.

Fahad is now the voice of a Kashmiri-language Christian radio station run by our Kashmir partners; its broadcasts reach both the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir.  

Peter, Javed, Fahad, and so many others like them are the people you support when you partner with Harvest Bridge. 

Our Kashmiri missionaries vividly demonstrate Harvest Bridge’s ministry model: coming alongside local South Asian Christians who are doing much with little, and who know how best to reach their people for Christ.

Please pray for Kashmir – for peace, resolution of its political problems, and the needs of its people to be holistically met. 

Thank you for equipping us to advance God’s work in Kashmir and throughout South Asia.

God bless,

Andrew David, 

Director of International Partnerships

*Names changed for security