Exploring our vocation and calling from God is exciting. But is there a cost?
An Open Doors small group reflection
Topic: the cost of folowing our calling
Bible: Mark 12:28-31; 2 Timothy 1:8–14
Exploring our vocation and calling from God can be exciting. But what does godly vocation look like for persecuted Christians? And what can we learn about hearing the call of God on our own lives?
- Read Mark 12:28-31
First, we have to recognise that we all have a calling – our primary and most wonderful calling in life is to a relationship with God. This call is on the life of every human being. And, as Jesus says in Mark 12:28-31, when we answer that call, we find we are called to serve others.
It is only then that we may also discover a calling that is unique and specific to each one of us, utilising our own unique set of gifts, skills and circumstances.
But what about Christians who, if they reveal their faith, will likely be persecuted for it? Does God call them to specific ministries?
The answer is yes.
Shekhar* from India became a Christian after someone gave him a Bible. It wasn’t long before he felt God call him to ministry in the church. His compassionate leadership was largely geared toward small prayer and worship meetings in peoples’ homes, particularly when people needed healing or comfort. But it has come at a cost.
- Watch this video about Shekhar in India.
- What do you think Shekhar’s calling cost him? What has been the effect on his family?
- “When we follow the Lord after leaving everything, our relatives, neighbours and many people come and persecute us,” Shekhar says. “But Jesus says that the person who suffers for Him is blessed (Matt. 5:10).” How might Shekhar have been blessed for following Jesus?
Background: Persecution in India
India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and for decades, India has been a place of respite for people of many faiths fleeing oppression. But the persecution of Christians in India is intensifying in many parts of the country as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse India of the presence and influence of believers.
This is leading to an often violent and carefully orchestrated targeting of Christians and other religious minorities in many parts of India. Increasing numbers of states are implementing anti-conversion laws, which purport to prevent coerced conversion, but are often abused to harass and intimidate Christians with false accusations of bribing people to convert.
- Read 2 Timothy 1:8–14
- What is the special task to which Paul says he has been called?
- What have been the consequences of Paul following this calling?
- What helps him to keep going?
- How is the experience of Shekhar similar to that of Paul?
Although Shekhar and his family have been shaken by their ordeal, Shekhar knows that the call of God on his life is stronger than anything he might face as a church leader in India. “I’ll keep serving God till my last breath, even in happiness or sadness, even if I have to suffer greatly or slightly, even if I have to give my life for God,” he says resolutely. “I cannot stop serving God. I cannot live without serving God because I’ve surrendered my whole life to Him.”
Shekhar understands that his primary call is to be in relationship with God. He knows that, when his foundation is Jesus, then he can stand firm, no matter what life throws at him.
No matter what season of life we find ourselves in, no matter where we feel God may be calling us – or even if we feel completely lost – Jesus is always beckoning us closer to Him.
- Think about our primary calling. What does it look like for you to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30)? And what does it look like for you to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (v.31)?
- Is there something more that you feel God is calling you to? The cost of our calling may not look like Shekhar’s, that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk or pain in the process. What do you think it will cost you?
- Sometimes we don’t always hear God right, or other priorities (health, family, etc.) take precedence. How can we help one another with these kind of difficulties?
- As well as his ministry, Shekhar has seen God’s hand at work in his suffering. Give thanks for areas where you seen God at work in your life recently.
- Pray for one another, that we would all find a place to use our unique abilities for God.
- Shekhar has been encouraged and spurred on in his calling by others. Who can you encourage in their calling, vocation or ministry this week?
Christians have taken to the streets in New Delhi to protest against ongoing persecution. Please pray that their cries will lead to greater protection and freedom.
More than 15,000 Christians from around 70 denominations in India came together in the capital New Delhi last month to protest against ongoing persecution.
The peaceful protests on Sunday 19 February called on the government, the court and civil society to intervene on behalf of persecuted Christians, particularly in states that in recent years have passed so-called ‘anti-conversion laws’.
In theory, these laws prohibit forced conversion from Hinduism to another religion, but in practice they are often used as an excuse to harass and intimidate Christians who are simply doing things like distributing aid or having a private church meeting.
Around 600 reported cases of violence in 2022
India is number 11 on the World Watch List, making it a place of extreme persecution for many of the country’s 69.5 million Christians (five per cent of the total population).
According to research by the United Christian Forum, a New Delhi-based human rights group, there were 598 reported cases of violence against Christians in 2022. Just before Christmas, hundreds of tribal Christians were forced to flee their homes in Chhattisgarh state after they were attacked, allegedly for converting to Christianity.
Last month, a church in Madhya Pradesh was burned down and a slogan praising Jesus erased and replaced with the name of a Hindu deity. Three men have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Promising developments – but action needed
Last month’s protest is hopefully another positive step towards provoking the authorities into more decisive action for Christians affected by persecution.
Last year, the Supreme Court began an investigation into the issue, which last month led to the court telling the governments of seven states to urgently provide details of attacks on Christians and give feedback as to what steps were taken in responding to the incidents. The order comes after they failed to produce the requested information in response to an earlier court order in September. They were given three weeks to comply.
Meanwhile, in another promising development, a Commission has been asked to investigate whether a government benefit for society’s poorest people can be extended to include minority religions, including Christianity.
The scale of opposition against many Christians is huge and these steps will only mean anything if the authorities resolve to provide Christians with greater protection and freedom. Please continue to pray for our Indian family.
As the crisis in Manipur, India, fades from the news, the violence there continues. Ritika fled her home while pregnant and gave birth in the jungle – but she is grateful to God and to you for your prayers and support. All names in this article have been changed for security reasons.
Ritika was heavily pregnant the night that her home in Manipur was destroyed. Night was falling, but the streets pounded with loud blasts and shouts of protest. Ritika and her mother-in-law fled as fast as they could.
“We were not prepared for such attacks,” Ritika, now in a relief camp, shares with Open Doors local partner Anjali Lhing. “We lived at Khangol and had to escape towards Kangpokpi. I saw my house burn in front of my eyes and it was a terrible scene.”
“I saw my house burn in front of my eyes”RITIKA
The violence continues in Manipur
The flames that engulfed Ritika’s home is part of the ethnoreligious violence that began on 3 May and continues to envelope Manipur. As of 25 June, more than 50,000 Christians from the Kuki-Zo-Mizo tribe and Meitei community have been displaced, around 400 churches have been burnt and destroyed, more than 250 villages have been burnt, and 120 people from all sides of the conflict have been confirmed dead.
Ritika is part of the majority-Christian Kuki tribe, whose community suffered most of the destruction from the Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun extremist groups. However, Christian converts from the majority-Hindu Meitei community have also faced violence from the said radicals, and have been forced to reconvert to their Sanamahist/folk-Hindu faith.
Ritika gives birth on the run
“I could only think of my baby, so I escaped,” shares Ritika. “On the way, I had pains, and the women who were with me helped me deliver my baby. The men prepared a bamboo bed on the mountain, and they were guarding us. After delivery, they carried me and my baby on the same bamboo cot because we could not stop moving. I can never forget this day. I never imagined it. But thanks be to God for the gift of life that He brought into this world even in such a terrible situation.”
Ritika’s mother-in-law adds, “I forgive our persecutors. Because of them, we can see God’s hand in our life.”
“I want [my son] to live and see how God can do great things in his future”RITIKA
Ritika has named her baby boy after the mountain where he was born, in their local language. Though still in a perilous situation – sharing food, shelter, and few resources in the camp for internally displaced people, she is optimistic for her precious baby.
“I pray for my child because he came in the world at this time, but I want him to live and see how God can do great things in his future,” she shares. “Now also, I’m in physical pain because of how I had to run, but I don’t blame any tribe or community. God has protected my baby and my life.”
Your prayers and support are making a difference
Thanks to you, Open Doors partners are continuing to provide relief and much-needed encouragement in Manipur and its surrounding areas. As of the third week of June, Open Doors partners have distributed 850 packs of grocery relief aid (sacks of rice, dal, pulses, potato, onion, soybean, cooking oil, toiletries, sanitary products, salt, tea, candles and buckets), as well as 100 sets of utensils (cooking pots, bowls, plates, drinking glasses and spoons) to affected Kuki and Meitei believers. Open Doors partners will also be there to help with the long process of rebuilding and restoring communities.
“Even if you are not here, we know that your prayers and your support are with the people, which means a lot”ANJALI
“We are really thankful for the people who have been such a big support,” Anjali says. “Even this support is a lot for the people in this moment. And as I’m speaking on behalf of the people from Manipur, I have seen how happy they were, how grateful they were, and how thankful they were. And yes, it is truly God who is doing this through you. Even if you are not here, we know that your prayers and your support are with the people, which means a lot. It is not just physical or material support, it is a strength. It is a support to their faith.”
Anjali urges everyone to still keep on praying: “Please continue to pray for them. Please continue to support them in any way possible, because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are supposed to stand with each other in this time. This is my request to you, and I’m really thankful for everything that you have been doing for our people.”
Praise God that Karnataka State government authorities have decided to scrap their anti-conversion law! But why is that so significant? Read on to learn more about anti-conversion laws and how they’re used to persecute Christians in India.
The newly elected Congress party-led Karnataka state government in India has decided to scrap the state’s anti-conversion law, which was put in place by the previous BJP government. Although the repeal process is yet to begin, this is good news – and an answer to prayer.
It will bring relief to the Christians living in Karnataka who have been vulnerable to being targeted, discriminated against and harassed as a religious minority by this law.
What is an anti-conversion law?
Anti-conversion laws are supposedly to stop Hindus being forcibly converted to other religions – in reality, they are often used as an excuse to harass and intimidate Christians who are just doing things like distributing aid or having a private church meeting. The laws don’t penalise Christians and other religious minorities being coerced back to Hinduism, and ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (‘returning home’: the conversion of non-Hindus to Hindusim) is celebrated by many in authority.
These laws are used to uphold Hindutva: a false ideology that says ‘only Hindus are true Indians’. It says that Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities have ‘foreign’ roots and must be expelled. Christians from Hindu backgrounds are particularly at risk from anti-conversion laws.
These anti-conversion laws currently exist in ten more states in India: Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh (although here the law has not yet been formally implemented), Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Please keep praying for our Indian church family
Thank you to everyone who has been praying for an end to anti-conversion laws in India. This is an encouraging answer to prayer! Please continue to keep praying for our sisters and brothers in India, and for more states to follow Karnataka’s example.
Just as Daniel was found blameless in his conduct before the Babylonian authorities (Daniel 6), pray that false charges brought against Christians would find no substance and that judges and juries would be fair and impartial.
Manipur, India, isn’t in the news headlines anymore – but the violence continues in fits and starts, and thousands of Christians and others are still displaced, having lost everything. Anjali Lhing*, a local Open Doors partner, shares stories from her recent visit to the region, including how your gifts and prayers are making an impact.
Despite international media coverage on the violence and persecution in Manipur dying down, the tensions between the Kuki and Meitei groups still continue, and believers who lost their homes in the conflict remain displaced. Surges of violence occur even more than a month after the riots began, including bomb attacks among insurgents on 13 June that killed 11, and the killing of a Christian woman praying inside her church a day before that.
The damage is massive – more than 350 churches have been destroyed. Thousands of Christian houses and properties have been burned and demolished, more than 100 people have been killed in the violence, and more than 30,000 Christians from both Meitei and Kuki sides have been displaced and are taking shelter in neighbouring states or in camps and other places of refuge.
Open Doors local partners continue to visit displaced believers, both in the Manipur region and those who have fled to neighbouring states, giving them urgent aid and relief and being there for prayer and emotional support. In this interview, Open Doors local partner Anjali Lhing* shares what she is seeing.
It’s been a month since the violence broke out in Manipur. Is the violence continuing?
Anjali Lhing: It was intense and emotional to see how it was. Even after a month since the violence broke out, the number of incidents and the body count still seem to rise every day. A lot of firing was still happening every night. Because of the ongoing tensions, even some of our volunteers had to flee and are displaced.
“The number of incidents and the body count still seem to rise every day.”ANJALI
We saw the place where the first attack happened, and even spoke with some of the military. We learned that there were three villages that were completely owned by believers that have been razed to the ground.
Though the mass burning of Christian property and churches have lessened, there are spurts of violence every so often, and the armed conflict remains active. There are tribal villages that are still being attacked on a daily basis. People have been displaced, killed and villages are still being put to dust.
Meanwhile, Meitei Christians in the valley area are being forced to ‘reconvert’ by the Arambai Tenggol Hindu/Sanamahist extremist group and, if they don’t, are physically abused or killed. This is what we hear from believers on the ground. The people who could not afford to flee out of the state are hiding in different places for their lives. Pastors and leaders are still on the run in the valley area due to threats of reconversion, and for their general safety.
There is a lack of medical help, food and sanitation. Many pregnant women, infants and elderly citizens are also victims of this violence. Young girls have faced physical violence and sexual assault, especially in the initial breakout of the violence. As families have been parted, people are restless to know about the safety of their loved ones.
Your team visited the affected believers and gave them urgent aid recently – can you share about these visits?
Anjali: The situation is still very intense in the state. There is an airport in the Imphal Valley region, but as people cannot cross the tribal/non-tribal border, it has been very challenging to visit these places. We have conducted the first round of urgent aid relief in two different tribal areas. To reach these areas, our partners were divided into groups, and we had to enter via road through two different states.
Grocery relief was what we provided first – 350 relief packages so far, with several hundred relief packs to follow. This include groceries such as rice, dal, pulses, cooking oil, as well as toiletries and sanitary items and such items that are the basic necessities of the people. This distribution was done among the internally displaced persons in schools, colleges and camps. We met families and listened to their stories, counselled them, prayed for them and with them, and listened to their needs.
What are people sharing with you?
Anjali: We came across people who are filled with fear and trauma. We met innocent children who do not have a clue about what is happening; we met families who have lost their dear ones; we heard mothers crying for their sons and men trying to stay strong to protect their families.
Trust has been lost among the people. It was very hard for people to open up to us or even meet us. Some people came up inquiring about their loved ones and if we have come across any of them. Our hearts were overcome with emotion as we saw and listened to them. We, too, are in pain.
“It is God who brings people like you even in such a fearful situation, just to help us.”VAA KIM
A believer called Vaa Kim* told me: “Thank you for your help of groceries, with this we can at least feed our children proper food. It is God who brings people like you even in such a fearful situation, just to help us. God bless you people who have given this help. Please pray for us; we want the violence to end, we want peace and a normal life. We want our family back. Your support really means a lot to us.”
Another Christian, Michan*, who’d lost everything – his home, all his possessions – said to us: “More than these groceries, I appreciate your bravery to come here. You truly have a heart for people. But I am very thankful for these groceries. It is not small; this is indeed a very big help. Thank you everyone who has helped in providing this to us.”
We prayed with many Christians and assured them that the world of believers is praying for them, and we encouraged them from God’s Word. We stood with them in prayer and look forward to continuing being there for them.
How is this affecting people’s faith?
Anjali: People are filled with trauma and mixed emotions. Not everyone is filled with the same feelings. People are filled with rage, fear, some are feeling hopeless and some are holding on to their faith. People have expressed that life is much more important than material things and they are grateful to God. They are praying for restoration of hearts and for the end of this violence.
A believer called Kiminlong* told me, “At least we are alive, and that is because of God. We also would have been dead if God would have not saved us. But God has provided us more. He has given us groceries to answer our need. It has given us hope. Not just to fill our physical needs, but a reason to believe in God and His people and His providence.”
Others have said similar things – and that they will not give up their faith, because it’s the only thing left. It’s unbelievable to see such faith still stand after everything they have been through.
Are Christians able to worship together?
Anjali: Because of the curfew, the believers are still not meeting at church or in public places. The curfew is still imposed in the whole state. The tribal land is much safer than the valley region for the believers. The people conduct family prayers in their homes.
“They are praying for restoration of hearts and for the end of this violence.”ANJALI
At Christian relief camps, they try to gather in small numbers and pray for the situation, encourage and counsel each other and build trust. They are unable to gather in military camps, as in military camps prayer gatherings are not allowed – in order to avoid clashes and tensions among the Meitei and Kuki.
Please do pray for believers of Manipur. This is an ethno-religious attack, and believers are affected by this attack regardless of whether they are Kukis or Meiteis. While the Kuki Christian majority is hugely affected, believers within the Meitei tribe have become doubly vulnerable because of the Hindu majority they belong to. Amidst the ethnic tensions they’re already under, they are also being pressured by the Arambai Tenggol group to ‘reconvert’ to Sanamahism and Hinduism.
Many Open Doors supporters are praying for the persecuted Christians in Manipur. How can we also pray for Open Doors partners?
Anjali: It is still very difficult for us to reach some places in Manipur, and the internet shutdown continues – locals say it may be ‘til the end of June. But we believe when God opens doors for us to enter, that no one will be able to shut them. Please pray that that will happen. We want to work with faith. And pray for our team as we ourselves are filled with emotions and heavy hearts when we are visiting people on the ground.
*Names changed for security reasons
Response to a protest turned violent in Manipur, India, and Christians have been especially singled out for persecution. At least 80 believers have been killed, and large numbers remain homeless.
A month since the violence broke out in Manipur between the Kuki tribe and Meitei community, there seems to be no stop to the violence between the two groups. Victims of violence continue to be in a desperate situation.
“The Meiteis continue to attack and shoot each day to terrorise the tribal groups,” reports local Open Doors partner Ngai Elam*. “Women and girls are sexually harassed and abused, men over 18 are trained with weapons by insurgent groups. The only safe places for the tribal people are refugee camps.”
Number of Christians killed continues to rise
Early this week, the Meitei group Armabai Tenggol is reported to have looted the homes and properties abandoned by Christians who had fled the violence. Still more tribal Christians had to flee over the past week, and are currently taking refuge in neighbouring cities of Manipur. It is rumoured that the Meitei groups are supported by state forces, and the president’s ‘shoot on sight’ order remains in place.
The number of Christians believed to have been killed has risen to 80, and it is likely that the number will continue to rise – many affected villages are currently unreachable, and so the impact of the violence is not yet fully known. Christians from both Kuki and Meitei groups have been targeted.
“God is with us”
“We believe that God is with us in this battle,” says Lhing Haokip*, a local Kuki believer. “Though the churches don’t function as normal, the church is open for the believers to come and pray, and many believers are praying.
“We believe that the prayers from Christians all over the world have kept the tribal believers safe until now. Pray with us that God will strengthen Christians to be on their knees to pray and seek God.”
Update: Further violence erupts in Manipur, India
24 May 2023
More violence has broken out in Manipur in recent days, after a lull. The area affected has a community comprising people from various different tribes – Kuki, Metiei and Rongmai people – and different faiths. The community’s Kuki leaders had advised vendors not to operate their businesses as it was a warzone. Local sources say that a mob of Hindu extremists from the Meitei group took advantage of the situation and started to attack abandoned Christian houses. (The Christians who lived in these houses had already fled the area, during the initial violence.)
The situation further escalated on 22 May, when some of the Meiteis attacked ICI Mar Church and burned it down, along with pastors’ houses and another building belonging to the church. At the time of the arson attack, there were six people in that building – they had to flee the fire. During the initial violence, 400 Christians from the ICI Mar Church had already had to flee the area and are taking refuge in camps or neighbouring states. A local believer is reporting that all their homes have been burned down.
“The attacks on churches have not come to an end,” says Open Doors local partner Yohan Murray*. “The churches and Christian houses and properties are constantly attacked. Though the government claims of maintaining peace and order, we do not see the results, every second night there is clashes taking place.”
Please keep praying for all affected by the violence in Manipur, and for those trying to bring peace to the situation.
Christians killed and churches burned down in violence in Manipur, India
Footage of the aftermath of violence in Manipur, India, has been shared by local Open Doors partners (above). “The city is a shell of what is used to be,” a local partner says. The devastating violence has seen 70 Christians killed, around 300 churches burned down, around 100 other Christian buildings (including a theological college) destroyed, and at least a thousand homes of Christians burned down.
More than 10,000 believers are taking refuge in rescue camps set up by the army, and there are reports of many hiding in the forest areas surrounding Manipur. While Christians are not the only people affected, local sources say that they have faced ten times the persecution received by Hindus.
Food prices skyrocketing; fear of civil war
Because the area is inaccessible, the price of essential items is skyrocketing. A bag of rice has increased by 60%. If the situation continues, prices will increase with high demand and scarcity of resources. Daily wage labourers are alarmed; some are struggling for food. Education is halted for students as schools and educational institutions are still closed. There is shortage of fuels and gas, limited cash and banks are working with limited staff.
There are fears of further violence, particularly as Hindu extremists are using the conflict as an excuse to hunt out church leaders and try to force entire Christian communities to convert to Hinduism.
“If the situation continues, civil war is inevitable.”YOHAN, OPEN DOORS PARTNER
“If the situation continues, civil war is inevitable,” says Yohan Murray*, a local Open Doors partner. “The pro-Hindutva government has not taken any measures to stop the violence, though on the orders of the Supreme Court, military has been deployed to maintain peace and order. There has been no initiative from the pro-Hindu led state and central government.
“If there is a civil war, the situation will only become gruesome, more lives lost, properties destroyed and open persecution of religious minorities.”
Your support and prayers continue to be needed for all our brothers and sisters affected by this ongoing crisis.
13 May 2023
At least 70 Christians have been killed, and hundreds of churches and other Christian buildings destroyed, in ethno-religious violence between ethnic groups in Manipur State in north east India. More than 15,000 people, including many Christians from different ethnicities, have been forced to flee their homes and are living in rescue camps. Some footage of the violence and arson has been shared via Open Doors local contacts.
Christians evicted from their land
The violence first flared up last Wednesday, 3 May, following a protest by the largely Christian minority tribes in the region.
“Almost all the churches have been burned down and reduced to ashes.”VISHNU
“For two, three days, it was just anarchy,” says Vishnu*, another local Open Doors partner. “And especially the Christians were targeted. Almost all the churches have been burned down and reduced to ashes.”
As Vishnu explains, “The fundamental reason for the escalation of violence was that the tribals, who are predominantly Christian, are being evicted [by the local government] from the forest land where they’ve resided for hundreds of years.” Their concerns have been exacerbated by signs that the Government is preparing to grant the Meitei majority ‘scheduled tribe’ status. This has been granted to minority tribes in the region and has helped to counter the power imbalance between the Meitei and other tribes – and would make it harder for the Christian community to get jobs and other benefits.
Protest met with violence
“The Christian community was making a peaceful protest, but it was met with a violent response from the majority community,” says Vishnu. The majority he refers to are Hindus from the Meitei community; Christian demonstrators and onlookers complain that the police failed to intervene and protect them during the worst of the attack. Among the destroyed buildings are churches, Christian homes and a theological seminary. While the violence hasn’t exclusively targeted Christians, they are bearing the worst of the persecution.
“Meitei Christians have been affected more during the riot,” says Viren*, a Meitei Christian. “Our believer brothers have stood strong even though we are facing this ongoing situation. Many churches were burned in front of us, and it has been very difficult to see this unfold before us. We want to be strong. Pray that God helps us.”
The initial situation was eventually brought under control by paramilitary troops on Friday morning – in Vishnu’s view, because there was little left to destroy. Though the situation is currently calm, there are fears that it could reignite and escalate.
Thousands of Christians – including local Open Doors partners – are among those who are currently finding safety in camps protected by the army. “People are taking shelter, afraid to return home,” says Neha. “That is, if their home hasn’t already been destroyed.”
Christians pressured to convert
Christians from both the Meitei and Kuki groups have been affected, with many facing extreme pressure to renounce their faith and accept Hinduism by the Hindu extremist group Arambai Tenggol. Even two weeks after the burning of churches, Open Doors local partners report that the Arambai Hindu extremist group is actively searching for Christian leaders and pastors. Local believers say the Arambai Tenggol are seeking to kill the leaders.
“Please, please keep praying for the Christians.”VISHNU
Many Christians from the majority Hindu Meitei group are being forced to reconvert to Hinduism. Though some of the Kuki have been able to return to their tribal land, the believers among the Meitei are still facing attacks.
“It is very hard to explain the situation of our land. I believe God is protecting us and will protect,” says Kuber*, a Kuki Christian. “Most believers are in trauma. We need churches’ prayers. Please pray for us. Pray for the situation and pray for believers here.”
How you can pray
Vishnu asks you to join the local community in prayer. He says: “Please, please keep praying for the Christians. They have had to abandon their houses and run to safe places. Most of them are in the area which is protected by the army, or some of them are secretly hiding in their friend’s house who belongs to majority community. We don’t know when they will come by, so please pray for them. There are children, women, old people – their lives are uncertain, and they’re deprived of basic facilities and amenities and deeply traumatised. So kindly remember them.”
*Names changed for security reasons
In advance of a hearing on Christian persecution in India, the Solicitor General’s dismissal of this persecution is discouraging for the nation’s vulnerable believers.
India’s church had been hoping that the country’s Supreme Court would recognise the persecution faced by Christians. India is number 11 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and the rise of Hindu nationalism has seen life get harder and harder for Christians and other religious minorities, particularly in the growing number of states which have often-abused anti-conversion laws.
But, sadly, the update from the court hearing on 14 April is not encouraging. The Union of India has claimed in an affidavit to the court that the cases of persecution brought by the petitioners are ‘falsehood’ and ‘exaggeration’.
Petition filed in 2022
The petition was initially filed in March 2022 by Dr Peter Machado, the Archbishop of Bangalore, together with the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India. It asked the Supreme Court to look at the ‘sinister phenomenon of violence’ and ‘targeted hate speech’ against Christians in parts of the country. The Supreme Court was initially due to respond in July 2022, but the hearing was delayed several times.
The number of cases of violence against Christians in these regions has risen sharply in recent years – and there may be far more than the hundreds of reported cases, since reporting these crimes is often a challenge. Many persecuted believers are simply too fearful of reprisal, or that they will not be taken seriously by legal authorities, to report the violence they experience. As Archbishop Peter has said, many of India’s Christians live in ‘a climate of fear’.
But, in the response to this petition by India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, he alleged that the claims were being made to ‘keep the pot boiling’ to tarnish the country’s image at international level. He stated the official position of the government that ‘there is no communal violence against Christians in India,’ adding that the petition sent a wrong message to the public that Christians in India were in danger.
Mehta questioned the statistics brought by plaintiffs: “The attempt of the petitioner is to paint a particular false picture […] the country is governed by the rule of the law and the attempt to create a false narrative […] is an attempt to short circuit the process of law.” He added that India was a ‘vibrant pluralistic society’ founded on strong democratic principles.
“A systematic campaign to marginalise and oppress Christians”
While India’s Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion or belief, this is sadly not the experience of many of India’s 69.5 million Christians (five per cent of the population).
“Shockingly, the attacks are often carried out with impunity”OPEN DOORS SPOKESPERSON
An Open Doors spokesperson says: “There is a huge body of evidence that Christians are facing some of the worst persecution anywhere in the world. Open Doors has documented hundreds of cases of harassment, intimidation, discrimination, and violence against Christians in India in the last few years, based on reliable sources and eyewitness accounts as well as horrific filmed footage of attacks.
“These attacks are not isolated incidents, but part of a systematic campaign to marginalise and oppress the Christian minority in India. And, shockingly, the attacks are often carried out with impunity, as the police and local authorities fail to protect the victims or prosecute the perpetrators.”
Keep praying for India’s Christians
The Solicitor General’s comments come ahead of an official hearing of the petition, which has been scheduled for 8 May to give Archbishop Peter and others the time to respond to this affidavit and its dismissal of their claims.
Though these comments are not encouraging, the Indian church is praying for God to move and for their persecution to be acknowledged and responded to. Your prayers can help change the lives of the women, men and children who face extreme discrimination, opposition and violence for choosing to follow Jesus.
Once there are any updates, we will share them with you here.
Indian Christians, as well as their homes and churches, have been violently attacked in a series of assaults orchestrated by Hindu extremists. Please be aware that this video includes footage of distressing violence.
For many hundreds of Christians in Chhattisgarh State, India, 2023 has already been a very difficult year. In many parts of India, anti-Christian sentiment is getting worse and worse among those influenced by ‘Hindutva’ ideology that says all Indians must be Hindus. And this leads to violent mobs attacking Christians, as well as their churches, homes and businesses.
Back in December, mobs attacked tribal Christians in Chhattisgarh, leaving thousands displaced from their homes. Five hundred of these believers were housed in a hall with a single toilet. On 2 January 2023, they were attacked again.
Attackers went door to door
The mob came back and, as well as attacking these displaced Christians, went door to door threatening other believers – telling them they had to leave their homes and their villages. These vigilantes also attacked churches and other buildings, as shown in the footage above. These video clips, filmed on mobile phones, were distributed widely on social media and shared with Open Doors partners by local Christians. Rather than being ashamed of their actions, persecutors in India often post footage like this themselves. (Please be aware that the video includes scenes of distressing violence.)
“These were well-weaponised gangs who had planned these attacks in advance.”ROHAN PAUL
“The Christians in Chhattisgarh were accused of following a foreign religion,” says Open Doors local partner Roshan Paul (name changed). “The persecutors alleged that the Christians were attacking the traditional way of life of tribal people.”
“A cynical and toxic ploy”
As Paul shares, attacks like these are not spur-of-the-moment acts of violence. “These were well-weaponised gangs who had planned these attacks in advance. Many of them had swords and stones,” he says. “The current drive against tribal Christians appears to be a cynical and toxic ploy by the fundamentalists to divide the community along lines of religion.” These Hindu fundamentalists didn’t do well in the region in the last assembly elections, and experts believe these tactics are intended to win them votes by stirring up religious partisanship.
“The authorities took no steps to address the issue or ensure security of the Christians,” adds Paul. “Neither the administration nor the local police have taken any steps to curb or restrain the rallies and meetings of the anti-Christian elements, which are openly mobilising and instigating locals against Christians and church leaders.
“Anti-Christian elements are openly mobilising and instigating locals against Christians.”ROHAN PAUL
“Authorities knew that meetings were being held for fresh attacks, but they did no preventive measures. Instead, the authorities are shutting down the community shelters and forcibly returning the people to their villages amidst raging violence.”
As Paul says, police have been forcing Christians back to the communities that have persecuted them – and many believers have been beaten and attacked on their return. During these latest attacks, some police officers did come to the aid of Christians – but the mob also attacked them. The above video shows one of the injured police officers.
Keep praying for our persecuted family
The situation remains very sensitive and critical. Many hundreds of Christians are still living in poorly equipped shelters. Those who return to their villages don’t just face violence – they’ve also lost their livelihoods, possessions and homes, and so have very precarious futures. Since the attack, Open Doors local partners have stayed with the displaced believers, offering encouragement and lobbying for better conditions. Please pray for our desperate brothers and sisters.
India is currently number 10 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and there have been worries that anti-Christian sentiment is growing in the country – including the threat of a nationwide anti-conversion law, which (if it follows similar laws in some Indian states) would be likely to be abused to target and harass Christians.