Open Doors USA Launches Prayer Campaign with Nationwide Indian Elections
April 23, 2009
SANTA ANA, Calif., (christiansunite.com) -- With nationwide parliamentary elections in India continuing through May 16, persecuted Christians desperately need our prayers.
On March 2, the same day that the government of India announced the dates of the elections, Christian denominations from across India presented a joint memorandum demanding that political parties guarantee safety for religious minorities, ensure their participation in the elections, defend freedom of religion and bring to justice those who discriminate against Christian minorities.
With the start of elections, including April 23 in the state of Orissa where violence against Christians has increased dramatically over the past eight months, Open Doors USA has launched a prayer campaign for India. To access prayer resources and requests, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, says: "Unfortunately, 2008 saw the worst kind of regression in our society as the church in India experienced a wave of violence and persecution unprecedented since the origin of Christianity in India 2,000 years ago."
This year India jumped from No. 30 to No. 22 on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most severe persecution. The increased violence is driven by rising anger among Hindu extremists over Christian conversions and the growth of Christianity. Some Hindus charge that the conversions are forced on poor Indians, mostly the lower-caste Dalits, by Christian missionaries. Five states in India have passed anti-conversion laws and two more states are preparing to implement laws.
The violence in Orissa and in other states comes at a time when many Christians feel that Hindu fundamentalism is on the rise. The extremists' goal is to make India a Hindu nation, rather than a secular one.
The increased attacks on Christians began in mid- August of 2008 after the murder of a Hindu religious leader. Maoist rebels have publicly claimed responsibility for the murder, but Hindu fanatics insisted on laying the blame on Christians. As a result, the Hindu radicals destroyed their homes and churches in retaliation -- mostly in the state of Orissa.
Since August in Orissa more than 60 Christians have been killed, 252 churches and 1,500 homes razed or destroyed and an estimated 50,000 Christians displaced. Around 1,500 Christians are still living in refugees camps -- and living in fear. Open Doors is partnering with organizations to help the displaced with basic food supplies and medicines.
Abhishek Singh, the director of Open Doors in India, expects persecution to continue to increase in India:
"To start with, you cannot compare India with a country such as North Korea (ranked No. 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List), which oppresses Christians and does not accord them any legal status. Christianity is not legally prohibited in India. Our constitution guarantees freedom of conscience for all and the right to choose one's own religion. So Christians in our country have rights.
"India is a democracy, but unfortunately in practice the law is being restricted in its application in favor of the Hindu majority -- 80 percent of the population -- and to the disadvantage of minorities such as Christians and Muslims. The scale of the violence against Christians, caused by extremists, is quite great. Not a day passes without there being two or three attacks on Christians somewhere in India. And the police, under the influence of the Hindus, in many cases do not act at all or are lax.
"The violence against Christians is not the random work of a few break-away gangs. There is a close-knit network of Hindu fundamentalist organizations. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is nothing other than the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the umbrella organization which promotes the ideal of a national state for Hindus."
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.