It is a well-known fact that persecution of Christians is being carried out around the world. When we look at India, we see that those who have converted from Hindu to Christianity are under extreme pressure and persecution to renounce their faith. The punishments range from harassment to vandalism to beatings to rapes to execution. According to Open Doors, a ministry that serves persecuted Christians around the world, India ranks 11 out of 50 countries where extreme persecution exists, a clear move up from 17 in 2016 and 31 in 2013. It can be said persecution is on the rise. In fact, over 60% of Christians in India receive direct persecution. Another shocking piece of data is that one-third of the unreached people groups of the world are in India!
Hindu nationalists believe that to be Hindu is to be born in India and have a special bond for the love of country and nationality. It discriminates against all who are not born in India, no matter what religion, political stand or beliefs. In 2014, Narendra Modi, a proclaimed Hindu nationalist, was elected as the prime minister of India. He has been known to turn a blind eye to attacks against Christians and Muslims alike.
Christianity in India
How did Christianity find its way to India? A region in India called Kerala is famous for its spices.
The Christian church has been traced back to the apostle Thomas who visited Kerala in 52 A.D. being drawn there for spices. Of course, Thomas shared the message of Christ and baptized many during that time. Thus, the Christian church in India began. Over the centuries, others found their way to this region including Franciscan priests, and the church began to grow. The growth was very slow, but now we are beginning to see an evangelism explosion.
Another region, Rajasthan, has one church with over 2,000 in attendance. Another megachurch can hold 35,000 people at each of five services on Sunday. According to local pastors, not being able to train enough pastors to support growth is critical.
With a country as diverse as India, it is difficult to get accurate statistics, but several organizations say the church has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years with reports of church numbers growing from 300 to 3,000 and 8,000 baptisms being recorded. It is apparent the church of Jesus Christ is on the move in India.
Of particular note is the fact that Christianity is reaching the upper classes of India that were previously closed to the Gospel. In the past, it has been mostly tribal and rural people who have accepted the Gospel, but it is now being witnessed a movement of the Holy Spirit to draw those toward Christ who have been historically unreceptive.
Intercessory Prayer â€” A Key to Growth
One would think a political change or a strong, charismatic leader would be the impetus for the growth of Christianity. Studies have shown that intercessory prayer is making the difference. The meaning of intercessory is on behalf of others. So, the Christian church around the world is praying for the persecuted church to withstand the pressures of Satan and to grow. The growth that is attributed to Godâ€™s hearing and answering the prayers of the faithful according to His divine will.
A Movement toward the Underground
Throughout history, we have seen seasons when the Church has been forced to go â€œunderground” in order to keep practising their faith. It is highly likely that some regions of India will see this happening as persecution escalates. There will be a growing number of Christians who will meet in small groups in homes to study the Bible, worship and pray. There will be communities where basic needs such as food, water and clothing will be stored for those who are denied these commodities because of their faith. Even though they go underground, the message of the Gospel will still be shared and Christianity will fight against the strongholds of politics, legislation, and societal indifference.
What Can We Pray for the Persecuted Church in India?
As members of the Church, we can and should pray for our brothers and sisters of the faith around the world. Here are a few prayer points for India:
- Pray in faith believing God will accomplish a great work in India
- Pray for open hearts and minds to the Gospel
- Pray for workers to go and share the Gospel
- Pray for barriers to be broken
- Pray for political, social and economic strongholds to be broken
- Pray for removal of all threats to the Gospel, Christianity, and religious freedom
- Pray for revival, the unity of the Church and perseverance.
As we stand in the gap for Christians of India, let us remember the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18.
“Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 1Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”