International Ministries

Deuteronomy 31:6

November 19, 2008 Journal
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“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6

In response to the persecution happening in the Indian state of Orissa, I have joined a team of people to meet in Chennai/Madras with some of the Baptist leaders from that area to listen to their experiences and learn how we can support them.  Many of the details are too horrific to write, but please read on; there is good news in the darkness.

The bad news:
On December 23, 2007, violence broke out in the state of Orissa destroying more than 95 churches, 730 houses and four lives.  This was the start of a great persecution of Christians.  At the end of August, it was alleged that Christians were responsible for the killing of a Hindu Swami.  A revolutionary group claimed responsibility, but still no one has been charged with the murder.

The atrocities continue today and the horror stories from that area are hard to listen to.  The pictures are shocking (I will not have pictures with this journal).  Since the original outbreak of violence against Christians in Orissa, over 30,000 people have been without homes and 35 people dead/killed.  Nearly 13,000 people are in relief camps that are so poorly supplied that residents barely get one meal of rice and lentils each day.  For many in these camps there no churches and no worship services being held.  There is no school for the children.  Disease and sickness is rampant among malnourished people in these “relief” camps.

More bad news:
The pastors told us of a village of 30 families, mostly Christians but with some Hindu families, that was demolished.  The gang that descended on them didn’t even care if the families were Christian or not, they just wiped out the whole village.  In another village, a pastor and family were under siege.  The wife and children managed to run to a nearby rice field to hide, while the husband/pastor stayed behind.  The bandits entered the village in the night destroying and raiding homes and searching for people as they went.  They found the pastor in a tree, pulled him down and asked him to renounce his Christian beliefs and become a Hindu.  He refused.  His hands were cut off.  He was asked again to renounce his faith.  He refused, spoke the name of Jesus and was immediately killed.

"Relief"?
Relief has been hard to get to the people in need, both those in the relief camps and those in hiding.  The government has stringent requirements of registration and a rule that supplies must be left with them for distribution.  Most relief groups have been reluctant to trust this option.  Some groups have arranged clandestine means to deliver food to the victims, but it is dangerous and not a long term solution.

"Bad News" stories continue, but . . .  There is Good News:
One village where relief was given by a Baptist organization, the non-Christian families requested Bibles.  Since religious conversion is illegal in Orissa, it has been especially dangerous to distribute Bibles.  In another village where supplies were given, seven families accepted Christ.  Those who decided to proclaim their new faith and be baptized will have to do so in another state.  They will have to travel a long distance to a safe place to take the plunge of faith and then re-enter their state with their new life in Jesus.  
 
God does work miracles in the darkness.  Chances to reach out have come and new believers will need nurturing as their new faith grows.  A few years ago, a Hindu government official from Orissa said to the leaders of the Tamil Nadu state government when they were considering passing a law banning religious conversion, “Do not disturb the Christians.  When you disturb them, they grow.”  Amen.  Let it be so!

How strong is your faith?  Please pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ who chose not to give in to the violence and fear to renounce theirs.
What is the most precious book you own?  Many people in India are illiterate, but they still desire to own one book, the Bible.
If you had to make a choice, Jesus or everything you own, which would you choose?  This is a decision many in the Indian state of Orissa have had to make.
Jesus will not leave you nor forsake you.  That is an assurance that can give the courage to step into a life-changing relationship with Christ today!