Religious persecution in India is rising: 70 million Christians at risk

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70 million Christians in India under increasing threat of religious persecution

March 1, 2024 -

The country of India is centered on a wooden map. Religious persecution in India is rising. By Александра Замулина/stock.adobe.com

The country of India is centered on a wooden map. Religious persecution in India is rising. By Александра Замулина/stock.adobe.com

The country of India is centered on a wooden map. Religious persecution in India is rising. By Александра Замулина/stock.adobe.com

More than one hundred Palestinians were killed, with hundreds more injured, after Israeli troops opened fire in a chaotic situation surrounding the disbursement of food in Gaza yesterday. It had grown increasingly unlikely that the ceasefire President Biden hoped to see this weekend was going to happen, but the chances are all but gone in the wake of this war’s latest tragedy.

While details are still emerging, Israeli officials have said the soldiers issued only warning shots and that the casualties were the result of the ensuing panic and looting. Conversely, Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said that most of the 161 wounded patients that his facility received “appeared to have been shot.”

As with most stories in this war, the truth is difficult to discern and, ultimately, of little consequence to the way nations will respond.

However, the Middle East is not the only place where the truth often falls victim to the narrative nations would prefer to believe.

Why haven’t we heard more about India’s religious persecution

As countries continue to group into what appears to be an increasingly clear separation between America and its allies on one side, with China, Russia, and those nations more sympathetic to their leadership on the other, India has thrived by maintaining some semblance of neutrality. While they are part of the BRICS group alongside China and Russia and have been among the largest buyers of Russian oil, India has also grown as one of America’s more important partners in the areas of technology and trade.

In the process, they have become a nation that developing countries look to—particularly in the global south—as an alternative model to what’s seen in the West or East.

Perhaps that’s why there has been relative silence from global leaders in the face of a dramatic increase in religious persecution throughout the nation.

India is a “restricted nation”

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is an organization that tracks persecution faced by Christians around the world, placing nations that are antagonistic to the faith into one of three categories: area of concern, hostile, or restricted. India recently joined China, Iran, and others as a “restricted nation,” VOM’s most severe classification of persecution.

Among the reasons given were:

  • Policies that forbid the conversion of Hindus in several Indian states. These laws have been used to target pastors, church planters, and evangelists.
  • Reconversion ceremonies—sometimes forced—for Indians who have left the Hindu faith.
  • A growth in extremist groups that seek to “forcibly unite” and “purify” India under Hinduism.

India is roughly 80 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim, and 5 percent Christian. With a population of 1.4 billion people, that still amounts to roughly 70 million Christians within the nation’s borders.

So, given the difficulties they face, how have the local Christians reacted to their country’s new designation?

4 matters of concern in India

In a recent article for Christianity Today, Surinder Kaur interviewed six religious freedom advocates, four of whom minister in India, “to learn if this label helps or hinders outsiders in their understanding of the situation in India,” as well as to what degree it impacts the church and Christians in the country. And while their responses varied to a degree, a few themes kept coming back up:

  • The situation is more complex and varied by region than a national designation represents.
  • The government has enabled, though not necessarily sanctioned, many of the most troubling trends over recent years.
  • Due to India’s geopolitical position, the recent designation is unlikely to alter the government’s approach to religious minorities.
  • Because of these factors, they must look to God and one another if they are to find the hope and strength to endure well the suffering they face.

That last point in particular is relevant to Christians far beyond India’s borders.

Our ultimate source of hope

This week we have been exploring ways to find hope in the midst of difficult times. We’ve discussed how to find hope in God rather than ourselves and the impact of truly understanding that his love is not based on our accomplishments or circumstances. We then saw how God’s redemption enables us to find hope in the midst of pain and how our job is to then share that hope with others.

Today I’d like to conclude that discussion with this reminder:

Our ultimate source of hope in this world is the fact that something far better awaits us on the other side of it.

Now, that hope is not intended to devalue the importance of this life or to minimize the trials we face as we navigate it. But it can put those troubles in perspective and give us the strength we need to persevere in spite of them.

The apostle Paul put it this way: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

You see, Paul worked to support himself, invested in relationships with those around him, and genuinely appreciated the opportunities that God brought his way. But none of that became his source of hope, identity, or purpose. Those he kept securely fixed in the life to come.

As a result, God was able to do truly remarkable things through him and help others experience the power and presence of Christ in ways that drew them to the Lord.

The question we have to ask ourselves—and I mean truly wrestle with—is to what degree can we say the same? Are your hopes and dreams more at home in heaven or on earth?

If we want to know the peace of God and learn how to embrace the hope that only he can provide, then we have to remember that such hope is not at home in this world. But, then again, we shouldn’t be either.

Where do you feel most at home today?

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