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Praying For The Persecuted In India
Editor’s note: The Herald office receives reports on a regular basis regarding the persecution of Christians in India. A few months ago, D. S. Spurgeon wrote an editorial in the Indian English Herald describing some of the persecution going on in India, and also calling for prayer for those being persecuted. In order to encourage you in such prayer for our brothers and sisters in India, we are including the following excerpts from Brother Spurgeon’s article. Though some of his examples took place last year, they are nevertheless representative of the ongoing persecution.
The distressing news about the horrendous experiences of the persecuted Christians, who are mercilessly and cruelly ill-treated has disturbed me very much. Most of us cannot but be aware of the atrocities that are committed against Christians, Christian institutions and Christian churches in our country during these days. The condition is more pathetic in Orissa State, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out for them. Jesus said, "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). We may not be able to do anything for those persecuted brothers and sisters in that State, except to pray for them. For your information, I am sharing with you some of the shocking news I read in the papers and also some of the information which came to me through email.
"Situation in Kandhamal out of control: Archbishop" is the headline in one of the newspapers and it gives the following details. According to the Archbishop, 40,000 persons are displaced, 4,200 homes were destroyed and 45 persons, including a pastor who was cut to pieces in front of his wife, were murdered. One group of people had used this period to systematically destroy one village after another.
In the same newspaper the following is also reported: "Three bodies were recovered from a river in the riot-torn Kandhamal district of Orissa on Sunday (28th September) even as a number of houses belonging to Christians were burnt in the interior areas since Saturday night. The victims M… and his wife P… and F… had been missing ever since they were allegedly taken away by a mob on Thursday evening. P…, who lived with her husband, worked as an auxiliary nurse midwife at the government’s Lonepada health center…."
On another day, the main headline in the newspaper was "Nun was gang raped and priest brutally assaulted in Kandhamal." The priest has made the following statement: "My appeal to the policemen who were standing nearby and watching only resulted in further beating. At one point the nun slipped away to plead with the police for help but she was dragged back by the mob and her blouse torn. This nun was gang raped in a nearby building and I was doused with kerosene by the mob, which threatened to set me on fire. We were saved by a group of youth who took us to the police outpost…." According to the report of the priest, the district of Kandhamal in Orissa had been in the throes of anti-Christian violence ever since December 2007.
According to one report, forced re-conversion of Christians has become the order of the day in Kandhamal district. Not only have Christian families suffered the loss of their homes, possessions and places of worship in sustained attacks by marauding mobs from August 24, they cannot return to their villages unless they accept re-conversion. August and September saw the steady depopulation of villages of their Christian population, who left fearing for their lives. Now, if families wish to return re-conversion is the price they must pay.
One of the major reasons for this kind of attacks is that "Dalit Christians are doing well educationally and socially and there is jealousy amongst the tribals over their success. The tribals loot from Christian homes after an attack, and take away utensils, money, gold, paddy, rice, dal and cattle." So the antagonistic groups have built a base amongst the tribals who act as their foot soldiers against Dalit Christians. The report continues to say that Christian priests, pastors and nuns are unlikely to be able to return to their places of work in Kandhamal in the near future. Some of them have been marked and get regular threatening calls. Meanwhile, thousands of Christian families in relief camps, who have rejected the option of re-conversion, have little hope of returning to their homes and villages that they left more than a month ago.
Apart from the atrocities in Orissa, we read that many churches in various parts of Karnataka and north Kerala are attacked and sacred articles are desecrated by some miscreants. The reason given for such atrocities is that Christian churches and organizations are converting non-Christians by compulsion and coercion. We know that this accusation is not at all true, since conversion to Christianity is never thrust upon any human being at any time of history, though many people embrace Christianity of their own volition and choice because of the love and compassion shown by the body of Jesus Christ inspired, encouraged and constrained by the sacrificial love of their Master and Leader Jesus Christ.
Persecution is not new to the Christian church. It started with the martyrdom of Stephen as we read in Acts 7, and we know, for the past twenty centuries, Christians were persecuted in various parts of the globe. However, it is gratifying to note that by God’s grace many of them stood firm for their faith even as they suffered painful death in the hands of their tormentors.
Let me give you one such example of a courageous young girl, who led many more to follow the path of martyrdom for the sake of Jesus Christ. In the year 1900, China’s Boxer Rebellion brought about the martyrdom of over 1,900 missionaries and untold thousands of Chinese Christians. In a Christian school the rebels blocked all doors but one, and placed a cross on the ground before it. Word was sent in that anyone who trampled on that cross could go free, but that anyone who would not trample on it would be killed. The first seven of the young people trampled on the cross and were allowed to go free. The eighth, a girl, knelt before the cross and was shot instantly. All the rest in a line of a hundred students followed her example. How courageous were those young people for the sake of their faith!
At this time let us make a covenant with God that we will continuously and earnestly pray for those who have lost their loved ones, pastors, homes, churches and possessions in Orissa so that the Lord will comfort, console and strengthen each of them. While thanking the Lord for the freedom and protection many of us are enjoying in our area, let us make a firm decision in our mind that whatever may happen to us, by God’s grace we will stay faithful until the end of our lives, for the sake of our Savior, who gave even His last drop of blood for us on the cruel cross of Calvary. – D. S. Spurgeon