India, South Asia
Political Leader: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Predominant Religions: Hinduism 79.8%, Islam 12.5%, Christianity 2.4%, Other 5.3%
Persecution Ranking: 29th
Number of Terrorist Groups: 56
Acts of Terrorism: 919; Casualties: 2,252
Percent of Corruption: 67%
% of People in Poverty: 25%
India is a sovereign country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east, India has a coastline of over 7000 kilometers. It borders Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.
Indian society is primarily organized by the fourfold Hindu caste system; each caste corresponds to a part of the creator god, from the head to the feet. Below the four main castes, however, is a fifth group, comprised of Dalits and tribals, who number around 250 million. The name, “Dalit,” is roughly translated as “broken people.” The Dalits have suffered social, religious, economic, and political exploitation and deprivation since the development of the caste system 3,000 years ago. Most of India’s Christian population is actually drawn from among the Dalits and lower castes who, in leaving Hinduism, are perceived to undermine India’s social structure. Discrimination based on caste, though outlawed in the Constitution, remains a fact of life. Dalit women are frequently sexually abused or sold into prostitution, and the careers of many them are hampered by their place in the caste system. The great majority of Dalits live in dire poverty and are sadly the targets of many violent attacks, most of which go unpunished.
Post-Independence India has seen the revival among upper-caste fundamentalists of Hindu nationalism, or “Hindutva,” under the slogan “one nation, one religion, one culture.” One consequence of this philosophy is the opposition to religions other than Hinduism, particularly Christianity and Islam. In an interview in November 2003,VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia referred to Christian witness as “religious terrorism” and to religious conversion as “cultural AIDS,” describing Christianity as a virus. Togadia had threatened in December 2002 that “all Hindutva opponents will get the death sentence, and we will leave it to the people to carry this out.”
Challenges for Christians:
Hindutva ideology is associated with a number of groups known collectively as the “Sangh Parivar,” among whom the largest organization is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS has recently been labeled by two US-based think-tanks as a quasi-terrorist organization. According to the RAND Corporation, the RSS “espouses a strong and militant religious philosophy based on exclusivity and hate.”
Christian communities and individuals of all denominations across India have suffered a considerable number of attacks at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. The number of recorded incidents against Christians in 2005 is estimated to have exceeded 200, though a large number of attacks go unreported. The religious organization of the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is often accused either of inciting, or of being directly implicated in violent attacks against Christians. A number of women have been brutally sexually assaulted in connection with attacks on churches. In some cases, police have been directly implicated in violence against Christians, or at least in failing to take proper action in response to these attacks.
- Pray for unification in the upper and lower caste Christian churches. As the Dalits are severely persecuted for embracing Christianity, pray that Christian Believers will be strengthened to help the Dalits in their struggles for justice.
- Pray for the safety of the main targets of Christian persecution and ask God to protect His children from attacks on individuals (especially women) and churches. Pray for laborers to be sent to the harvest field of the Gospel-ready states.
- Pray that those in authority will develop a hunger for truth and justice. Ask God to change the hearts of leaders so they will repent and take steps to ensure that the needs of all are met in a just and equitable way, and that Christians and other minorities are not discriminated against or ignored.
- Pray that the Lord will supernaturally provide for those devastated by poverty in this hurting land.
Barnabas Fund, Compass Direct News, Wikipedia, Wars Within Borders, The World Factbook