The director of our mission partner in northern India made an unusual request when he visited the United States last summer. We wanted to interview him on camera, and he politely declined. He said it wasn’t safe. He even asked if we would refrain from mentioning his name, the name of the ministry, as well as anything that would refer to where in India they were operating.
Again, it wasn’t safe.
I have been to India for the past few years, and the climate there regarding Christianity has been rapidly deteriorating for some time. When I last visited, mobs attacking churches, homes of pastors and individual Christians were not uncommon, especially in outlying villages. Today Hindu nationalism is rampant and violence against Christians is becoming the norm across the country.
When the New York Times covers the persecution of Christians, you know it’s wrong, and that’s precisely what happened in a story called “Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside the Persecution of India’s Christians ” by Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj. It is worth a full read.
In the article, an attack on a Christian church in the city of Indore is detailed, including the beating of pastors, assaults on terrified women and children who are in hiding for their lives. When the police arrived, they did not arrest the attackers; they arrested and imprisoned pastors and other church leaders who were still physically reeling from the assault. Christians were
“…accused of violating a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, a law that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that have sparked an upsurge in mob violence against Indian Christians. .a growing anti-Christian hysteria spreading across this vast nation….”
There are over 30 million Christians in India, making it “one of the oldest and largest Christian communities in Asia”. A community that now lives in fear as anti-Christian vigilantes “sweep villages, storm churches, burn Christian literature and assault worshippers”. And, like the New York Times reports that in many cases, the police and members of the ruling party in India help them. “From church to church,” they write, “the very act of worship has become dangerous.”
You may have read recently that even the revered Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa in what was then Calcutta (now Kolkata) in West Bengal, were recently denied the opportunity to receive and use sources of foreign funding, thus ending the ministry in this nation. International outcry was enough for it to be quickly reinstated – for example, the UK Parliament began debating blocking foreign NGO funding in India – but it was a harbinger of the effort aimed at cutting off the flow of outside money to help Christians and Christians. ministry in the nation.
What motivates the persecution? Again, from New York Times:
“For many Hindu extremists, the attacks are justified – a way to prevent religious conversions. For them, the possibility that some Indians, even a relatively small number, will reject Hinduism in favor of Christianity is a threat to their dream of turning India into a pure Hindu nation.
This makes the situation more serious in central and northern India,
“…where evangelical Christian groups are making inroads among lower-caste Hindus, albeit quietly. Pastors hold clandestine ceremonies at night. They perform secret baptisms. They distribute audio Bibles that look like little transistor radios so that illiterate farmers can surreptitiously listen to the scriptures as they plow their fields.
For our part, we will continue to support our partner in India in every way possible. But every church in the West should have India – one of the most populous nations on the planet (second only to China) – in its heart and in its mind.
And in their prayers.
James Emery White
Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj, “Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside India’s Christian Persecution”, The New York Times, 23 December 2021, read online.
“The Indian government. Allows MC nuns to continue to receive foreign donations,” Vatican News, January 8, 2022, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His last book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.