When Jason and I were in India, we spent most of our time near a city called Bangalore in the state of Karnataka. Well, more specifically, we spent most of our time at a rural Bible College called Green Valley about 75 km (which translates to a 2-hour bus ride) away from Bangalore. When we were there in the late 90's, we never experienced anything but welcoming, friendly faces from everyone we met--some a little too openly-staring at my blond hair and fair skin for my comfort, but I got used to it.
Well, the climate in India is not all reflected by smiling kids chasing your rickshaw and yelling "Hello, Auntie! Hello, Uncle!" In 1999, a long-time missionary in the state of Orissa named Graham Staines was torched, along with his two young sons, as they slept in their station wagon. Before and since then, Hindu activists have persecuted Christians in Orissa, with a recent outbreak of violence that has led to thousands of Christians in Orissa living in refugee camps or in the forests, as this article explains. This site has much more detail about the Orissa persecution.
This morning, our dear friend George, who founded and still runs Green Valley, brought all this to our attention, saying that this violence is now spreading to Karnataka, and down the West Coast--areas that traditionally have been much more friendly to Christians. Here is George's e-mail:
India is emerging into an economical superpower...but on the other hand the communal severance is on the increase too. The war between our present ruling Congress and the opposition is finding expression in communal conflicts. The Orrisa episode which began much before the murderous persecution of Graham Staines has many new chapters followed up!
The recent, like a few weeks ago literally hundreds of so called low class hindus who had become christians genuinely or forcefully were killed through burning or beaten to death. Many church buildings were destroyed with properties which were dwellings of those who were called christians in Orissa. Such events have occured in many other parts of India but not made known to the people in general. Government is limited in what they can do in these situations as these are considered as under the tag of religious fanaticism...and the killings go through the legal proceedings and never get solved for centuries!!
Now we have been drawn to what's happening in Karnataka as that is our home State! On Saturday and Sunday some Christian tracts containing defaming statements on Hindu gods began a stir among Hindu communal political party called Bajran Dal...which gave raise to several atrocities in the State. 7 Churches were destroyed or burnt in Mangalore area...north west Karnataka and a house of nuns also destroyed and many hundreds were injured through arson. One Church was destroyed in Chikmagalur, at interior west Karnataka and on Monday a Church a few kilometers from Devanahalli...half way to Green Valley was destroyed. A few young people shouted making anti-christian remarks in front of Green Valley just two days ago. Many Bible Colleges on Hennur Road in Bangalore received calls and notices threatening them with serious consequences if they did not shut their operations. Many Churches in Bangalore also received notices to shut down their services. Bajran Dal very openly said that they are responsible for the opposition against Christians and forced conversions are the reasons! They very clearly said on TV that the whites who come into the country as visitors getting involved in so-called Christian activity will be opposed and those who host such activities will also be opposed! Open meetings, street preachings and loud propaganda of Christian messages will not be allowed. Now this violence is slowly moving on the west coast to northern Kerala State.
What can we do?
It is so easy to feel helpless in a situation like this. Whether it is a so-called "Christian" American President with who-knows-what hidden agenda, or a crazed dictator touting fundamentalist Islamic teachings, or a Hindu activist terrorizing men, women, and children, religion always seems to be the excuse that violent men use to further their own purposes. "But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." (Proverbs 4:19 NIV)
How can we prevail against wicked people?
1. Pray. If you are a Christian, pray for your brothers and sisters who are suffering right now. Pray that the hearts of those who are persecuting them would be changed. Remember that Saul, who was the most zealous persecutor of the early church, became Paul, the most zealous apostle for Christ, after he met Christ himself.
2. Give. Check and see if your church or denomination is sending money to help with the relief efforts. If you can't find a way to give and you want to, please contact me (e-mail address on the side) and I will help you. (Please remember I will be out of e-mail contact starting this weekend for about 10 days.)
3. Tell others. As Christians, we are called to lay down our lives for Christ. For some, this has recently become literal. Tell other people about their testimony. Let their deaths speak, not of the hatred of man, but of their love for and faith in Christ.
"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them...
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. " (Excerpts from Hebrews 11.)
How great is the love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Our God is a god of love... pray that our persecuted brothers and sisters would show that love, even to their enemies. Pray for strength for them. Pray for rescue. Pray. Pray. Pray.
"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)