During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.
To put it more accurately, Christians the world over should be mindful that at this time in our history there remain legions of Christ’s disciples who are made to endure persecution for their faith the likes of which rival that suffered by the earliest Christians.
While most of the worst environments for Christians are Islamic lands, there are non-Islamic bastions of intense Christian persecution that receive little to no coverage by the world’s media. One particularly notable example is that of India.
Of a population of 1.3 billion people, there are 64 million Christians who reside in India. Open Doors, an organization “dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” relays the story of “Reena,” a 19 year-old girl who experienced this anti-Christian persecution directly.
“When I was a young child,” she says, “Hindu children did not want to play with me.” Eventually, “my parents were banned from using the local water supply. They had to walk many kilometers to draw water from the river.”
Things got even worse for this young woman.
When Reena went to work as a school teacher, she was initially promised a salary of 1,500 rupees ($23.13) a month. Her employers wound up welching: They paid her only 500 rupees ($7.71) for the first two months. Within six months, they stopped paying her entirely. So Reena sought work elsewhere.
Her new headmaster invited Reena to a teachers’ meeting. There he offered her and her colleagues an assortment of Indian pastries.
And it was at this time that Reena was drugged and kidnapped.
Reena doesn’t want to discuss the events that unfolded over the ten days of her captivity. She claims to have no recollection, but those in the know at Open Doors insist that it is more “likely…that what happened to her was so terrible [that] she doesn’t want to share” her experiences. After all, literally “millions of girls in India”—many of them Christians and other religious minorities—“are kidnapped and trafficked each year.”
Reena called her parents at one point and informed them that she was being retained in “a terrible place.” She also admits that when she first awoke, she was in a train car with many other teenage girls who followed her as she made her escape.
Yet Reena expresses suspicions that at least some of the girls were involved in her abduction.
Reena had been taken 14 hours away from her village.
Although she experienced depression and hopelessness for a time following her return to her home, upon attending an inspiring church service, Reena renewed her Christian faith. While her brother informs us that the headmaster in whose company Reena was drugged desires vengeance for the troubles that he now apparently endures, Reena sounds hopeful:
“My future is very bright. I will share the gospel with non-believers. I don’t expect more problems.”
But there are many problems for India’s Christians.
Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase. Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015. Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place.
An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—“there [is] often…a long process of ‘re-converting’ them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.”
A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism. The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India. Some political leaders have even gone so far as to call for the expulsion from India of all Christians and Muslims by 2021.
In any event, although “everyone” is aware that “the churches are being attacked and demolished on almost an everyday basis in India,” as an Open Doors representative puts it, the Prime Minister of the country denies that any such persecution is occurring.
He should speak to people like Chandan Devi.
Chandan and her husband, Aadarsh, an Indian man who converted to Christianity and became a pastor who led a couple of dozen animists to Christ, have four children. The oldest, a daughter, is married, while the other three were away at boarding school when the unthinkable occurred.
Chandan and Aadarsh were home alone when they were attacked by thirty men, Maoist (communist) Naxalites all of them. As they grabbed him and proceeded to drag him outside, they were promising to murder Aadarsh. Chandan clung to her husband, begging the thugs to kill her along with her husband. Instead, though, they delivered to her a hard blow to the shoulder, dropping her to the ground.
The last thing Chandan recalls having heard is the loud sound of the door slamming shut as her husband was led off into the jungle to be killed.
Shortly afterwards, Aadarsh’s corpse was found.
None of the Christians who Aadarsh had converted attended his funeral for fear of losing their lives, and Chandan, fearing future attacks, fled her home and village with nothing but “the clothes on her back,” as Open Doors reports.
As if it wasn’t terrible enough that the Naxalites murdered Aadarsh. They subsequently threatened his brother Ajay. In fact, prior to Aadarsh’s murder, the Naxalites abducted Ajay’s son.
Of course, none of this should come as any surprise when it is considered that over the last decade, this same treacherous group, “with the help of local authorities,” has “attacked, beaten, kidnapped, raped and killed thousands of Christians in India” (italics added).
It’s worth noting that when Chandan was asked by Open Doors whether the trauma to which she and her loved ones have been subjected has provoked her to reconsider her faith and denounce Christ, she promptly responded:
“I’d rather die.”
Hindu-on-Christian persecution—not something that we hear, or are likely to hear, talked about by the Western media that has labored tirelessly to depict Christians as the planet’s only purveyors of oppression.