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India

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This church building in northern India was destroyed by Hindu extremists
Image: Gospel for Asia

Although in many parts of India our brothers and sisters are left in peace, in some areas believers are vulnerable to abuse and violence by supporters of the Hindutva movement, which strives to make the country religiously “pure”.

In August 2013, a Christian community in northern India had almost finished constructing its church building when a 1,000-strong mob came to destroy it, before beating the pastor and other Christians. It was part of an ongoing anti-Christian campaign in the area.

Militant Hindus regularly threaten and attack Christians and disrupt worship services; in 2013 one church group reported a total of 131 anti-Christian attacks in the country in the previous year. Karnataka state, where persecution is particularly severe, saw the highest number of anti-Christian attacks.

The authorities often do little to help; the police frequently arrest the Christian victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Corruption is also rife in the courts, and Christians’ unwillingness to play the system dishonestly works against them. Since the horrific and sustained anti-Christian violence in Orissa state in 2007-8, many of the crimes have gone unpunished. In contrast, seven Christians were imprisoned for life in October 2013 for the murder of the militant Hindu leader whose death sparked the violence, despite an apparent lack of evidence against them and responsibility for the killing having been claimed by a Maoist group.

Christian activities are restricted by “anti-conversion laws”, which are currently active in five states. These prohibit conversions by “force, fraud or allurement”, but they can be misused to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism.

Much of the Hindu extremist activist activity has been prompted by the remarkable growth of the Church in India in recent generations, especially amongst Dalits. Two-thirds of India’s 27 million Christians are Dalits, who are at the very bottom of the Indian caste system. Under Indian law, Dalits who are Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist are given certain advantages which are not available to Christian or Muslim Dalits. This discrimination keeps the latter two groups trapped in intense poverty.

According to tradition, the apostle Thomas brought the Gospel to India, and there has been an established Christian community since at least the 2nd century. Later there were a number of mass conversions, especially among the lowest levels of the Hindu caste system.

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Daily prayer

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  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 14 hours ago

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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