Hindu Nationalists Set Date to Cleanse Region of Christianity

08/13/2010 23:40

From Mission Network News:

India (MNN) ―   In May, we covered a story of a plan in Madhya Pradesh to do a "religious cleansing."

The Maa Narmada Samajik Kumbh (Mother Narmada Social Kumbh, with kumbh literally meaning, “pot”) is scheduled for Feb. 10-12 on the Narmada, a river that flows through Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

Compass Direct News and the regional Patrika newspaper first broke the story. They also reported that Hindu leaders announced a list of pre-festival objectives, which included a concerted effort to drive away Christian pastors, evangelists, and foreign aid workers.

Hindu nationalists openly declared their intentions to rid Mandla district of all Christian influence by starting preparations for a large "reconversion" event. At the time we reported the story, we also asked if ministries had already started to feel the pressure.

Dave Stravers of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says they had been seeing an uptick in the level of harassment. With the announcement of an agenda, "It's sort of given the ‘go' signal to all the various extremist groups throughout the state to make life difficult for Christians. We're starting to see increasing physical attacks as well as verbal abuse, arrests, and threats being made against Christians everywhere."

What makes this different is that it's a campaign. There's no help from police, either. In more than one situation, when the victims went to the police for help, they found themselves facing charges or being arrested. Stravers explains, "It's very well organized. They have a date: April 2011. So, between now and April 2011, they have a plan to try to force Christians to leave."

Although the anti-conversion laws are frequently cited in these cases, the clear fact that many people are turning to Christ without coercion can't be ignored. "Ninety-nine percent of the population is very open and very friendly toward Christian workers," Stravers says, adding that "the common reaction is acceptance, joy and thankfulness when they're hearing the message. It's just this very vocal violent minority, usually people in power, who are trying to stop this movement."

In the days since the Hindu nationalists launched their reconversion campaign, Stravers says that he's started getting daily reports of persecution of Christians. Naturally, violence disrupts a team's work. "When there's a mob action, then people in the community get all upset and disturbed. We'll temporarily suspend the ministry. If there's a children's Bible club going, they'll stop meeting for a week or two, and then they'll quietly gather again."

Mission India offers Children's Bible Clubs, Adult Literacy Classes, and Church Planter Training. Sometimes the classes are used as an excuse to prove "foreign coercion," which violates the anti-conversion laws of the state.

However, Stravers says, "We are actually helping many different existing groups--indigenous churches, indigenous mission agencies--to train their workers, providing them with Scriptures, with Scripture materials, and theological training."

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