The sub-continent of India is home to over a billion never-dying souls and, in spite of continuing and often severe anti-Christian persecution, is still one of the most open missionary lands on earth. The dominant religion in India is Hinduism accounting for approximately 80% of the population. Hinduism has increasingly leaned to overt extremism over the past almost three decades with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its para-military Hindu nationalist splinter groups who have been largely responsible for attacks against Christians and Christian churches. India is also home to the second largest Muslim population in the world numbering perhaps in excess of 130 million, or over 13% of the national total. The Christian population would be about 2.5%, mainly nominal with only a tiny 0.4% of evangelicals and these mainly concentrated in the south of India. The north with its teeming cities and towns is still today largely unevangelised a challenge to Christian outreach and prayer.
Persecution against Christians is still common in many parts of India. A particularly vicious attack was reported in Karnataka in early March when a squad of the para-military extremist Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked an assembly gathering in the rural Davangare area at their Breaking of Bread meeting. The brethren were severely beaten, Bibles were seized and desecrated, and the assembly were driven from the house where they were gathering. The premises were then secured, and the believers were warned not to return. This is a relatively new assembly and this baptism of persecution greatly unnerves these young converts. This new outbreak of Hindu opposition in Karnataka is almost certainly local to the area, but will be felt throughout the State and draw the saints together in fervent prayer for God's protecting wings to overshadow them. Pray for them in face of such violent persecution.
It was only a year or so ago in Hyderabad that two evangelists from the city were lured from their homes at night by another Hindu extremist group, the Bajrang Dal, and murdered. Their bodies were later found thrown by the roadside in gunny bags and had been disfigured with acid. They are martyrs for Christ.
While the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, including worship and witness for all citizens, the federal system of state government makes it possible for individual states to frame their own laws on certain matters. This is the case where states with Hindu political majorities seek to legislate and pass anti-conversion laws which are aimed specifically against Christians. Thus, in some states laws have been passed restricting conversion from one faith to another. These laws have been paradoxically called "Freedom of Religion Acts" and make it difficult for Christians to baptise converts from Hinduism without police and court hearings.
Yet in spite of such legislation and persecutions, India is still open to the gospel as a recent visit to Andhra Pradesh by a visiting preacher shows. He writes, "I was kept safe and sound travelling in India along hundreds of miles of very busy and dangerous roads. I did get one serious amoebic stomach upset which responded to some strong medication, but was not too well for about one week although I could still take my meetings!
Our Christian conference on 11th-13th January went very well when we had about 4,000-5,000 believers attending! It is a great sight to see the believers all gathered and sitting on the ground, sisters on one side, and brethren on the other, all with opened Bibles taking in the Word! Praise God. There is ministry by various speakers mornings, afternoons, and evenings, and it is some task to feed this crowd with a cooked rice meal twice a day, but they do it with skill and efficiency, and everyone is ready for the next ministry session after the meal! As I am getting a little older now I no longer preach in the afternoons but have a little nap so that I am fresh for the evening. I take two 90 minute sessions, one morning and evening, and we had the help of the Lord on each occasion.
Then I was able to speak at the opening of one of the Prayer Halls recently completed in a Hindu fishing village and we had a full Hall. I spoke on Psalm 24 - "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" - emphasising the character required to worship the Lord acceptably in His house, and the need for salvation to have such a character. We experienced the felt help of the Lord the Spirit.
Large Gospel Meetings
Then, from 16th-20th January in a small town in Andhra they had arranged ministry meetings during the day and public gospel meetings in the evening in a large open-walled compound. The believers had advertised the evening gospel meetings on a local TV station as well as sending out auto rickshaws and broadcasting the meetings over loud speakers throughout the town and nearby villages. So by day we had ministry for the believers when about 1,100 or more gathered, and in the evenings the Lord greatly encouraged us all when we had 5,000-7,000 gathered on the first few evenings, and perhaps over 10,000 people gathered on the final evening to listen to the pure message of the gospel! There were many who remained behind for counselling afterwards. Pray the Lord of the Harvest will gather in many precious sheaves as a result of these meetings.
Since then we have had meetings with assemblies in Secunderabad, and Bombay, and finished with a weekend spent with the believers in an assembly outside Bombay, and part of the outreach work of a Christian hospital there. It was their Sunday School Prizegiving in the morning after the Breaking of Bread and in the evening we had an excellent gospel meeting at the Hospital when many Hindu patients came in to hear the message. So PRAY the Lord's continuing blessing on this sowing of the good seed in India. Above all PRAY for India and the spread of the gospel in that great land!