Whilst India’s federal Congress-led government is a strong advocate
of religious liberty, India’s states have a high degree of autonomy
and several have Hindu nationalist state governments that reject
religious liberty. And though Hindu militants are persecuting
Christians across the nation, the situation is worse in Hindu
nationalist BJP-ruled states where the militants can persecute the
Church with impunity. Furthermore, in defiance of India’s
Constitution which guarantees religious liberty, unconstitutional
anti-conversion laws are in force in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh,
Chattisgarh, and Arunachal Pradesh states. Anti-conversion laws
have also been approved in Gujarat but are not yet in force.
Rajasthan’s BJP-led state government plans to present an anti-
conversion bill to the state assembly during its next session
starting Monday 26 September.
If Rajasthan’s anti-conversion bill is passed then anyone wishing
to convert to Christianity, and any religious official involved in
conversion, must inform district authorities before any conversion
takes place. Failure to do so will result in imprisonment and/or a
stiff fine. There will also be penalties for anyone deemed to have
attempted to convert someone through ‘fear tactics’, e.g.,
preaching on hell and judgment, and ‘enticement’ or ‘fraudulent
means’, such as a gift from a Christian, or even the promise of
heaven. This will especially target the numerous Christians
involved in sacrificial, humanitarian holistic servant ministries
amongst India’s poor and down-trodden, with any gift from a
Christian being potentially an ‘enticement’ to convert.
Rajasthan’s Social Welfare Minister, Madan Dilawar, is a hard-line
Hindu nationalist who says it is the ‘duty’ of the government to
monitor activities of churches all the time. He has warned that
this monitoring ‘will be intensified if any act of religious
conversion is reported in the state’. However, the law does not
apply to the Hindu nationalists engaged in aggressive, forceful
conversion campaigns. Most new Christians in India come from the
downtrodden lower castes and indigenous tribal populations. Hindu
nationalists count all these people as naturally Hindu (when in
reality they are mostly Animist) and believe all Christian converts
should ‘return’ to Hinduism. They call these often violent forced
conversions ‘home-comings’ and regard them as a corrective measure.
Earlier this month Compass Direct reported, ‘The Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) has called for a
comprehensive law to ban religious conversions in India, as part of
a new campaign to stem the “increasing” number of conversions
around the country. Addressing media on August 25, Mohan Joshi,
national secretary of the VHP, said anti-conversion laws in some
states were not stringent enough to curb religious conversions.’
Mohan Joshi has even recommended that all Christian missionaries be
expelled, but this would be quite pointless as the overwhelming
majority of the many thousands of missionaries working across India
are Indians engaged in cross-cultural mission. For all the fear-
tactic rhetoric of the VHP, it is important to note that, whilst
the Church is growing in India, India’s 25 million Christians are
still only 2.4 percent of the more than one billion population. As
noted in Operation World, ‘India has more (and larger) people
groups with no Christians, churches or workers than any other part
of the world.’
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* our sovereign God to work in the consciences of India’s
politicians and police so that peaceful, law-abiding Christians
may be able spread the gospel and serve the people in peace and
dignity, ‘for this is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants
all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’.
(from 1 Timothy 2:1-6)
* the Rajasthan state assembly considering anti-conversion
legislation in its next session commencing Monday 26 September.
* conviction and courage for the federal government to challenge
unconstitutional anti-conversion laws in several BJP-ruled
states, and especially that God will use Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi as his
instruments for good and for the blessing of India.
* courage and peace for India’s persecuted minority Christians;
may they be assured of the eternal love of Christ (Romans
8:35-39) and experience the counsel and encouragement of his
ever-present Spirit (John 15:26,27); may our merciful Father
protect them and provide all their needs.
* the Indian Church’s growth in loving unity, God-dependent
prayerfulness and grace, to shine as a light to all India; may
persecution meant for evil be used by God for good (Gen 50:20).
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
HINDU NATIONALISTS STEP UP PRESSURE IN INDIA
India’s federal government is a strong advocate of religious
liberty. However, India’s Hindu nationalist zealots and militants
reject religious liberty and persistently persecute the Church. In
defiance of the Indian Constitution, several Hindu nationalist-led
states have enacted anti-conversion laws that make it illegal to
convert to Christianity or be involved in a conversion without the
permission of state authorities. Anti-conversion laws ban attempts
to convert through ‘fear tactics’, e.g., preaching on hell and
judgment, and ‘enticement’, which can be any gift from a Christian,
or even the promise of heaven. ‘Enticement’ specifically targets
the multitudes of Christian humanitarian workers and holistic,
servant ministries across India. Rajasthan’s state government will
present an anti-conversion bill to its next session starting Monday
26 September. Please pray for India.
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RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.