BosNewsLife (05/12/06) Millions of Christians, including orphans and abandoned children, in India and around the world were expected to participate in the All India International Night Of Prayer Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, amid reports of persecution of Christians working for a leading evangelical organization and other believers in the tense Hindu-run Indian state of Rajasthan.
The co-founder of the mission group Hopegivers International (HI), Samuel Thomas, called for the prayers shortly after he was released on bail last week following 47 days in prison for his alleged anti-Hindu activities, charges he strongly denies.
His appeal came as staff and outreach ministries of humanitarian missions related to HI began working with contractors on an emergency plan to rebuild what they described as a “Wall of Hope” around the Hope Home Orphanage in the town of Kota , which was besieged for weeks and attacked by Hindu militants.
In addition authorities froze bank accounts and withdrew permissions for several projects from HI and its Indian affiliate Emanuel Mission International (EMI), including orphanages, churches and HIV/AIDS outreaches, BosNewsLife learned.
“Millions of Christians across India and around the world are [already] praying daily for the many humanitarian ministries of EMI in the northern state of Rajasthan. Besides the 2,000 orphans on the Raipura campus in Kota , a total of over 10,000 orphans are being rescued in 87 Hope Homes across India ,” HI told BosNewsLife.
All the orphans are expected to join Dr. Sam, Bishop M.A. Thomas and “Circle of Hope” prayer groups around the world. Over 20,000 congregations are expected to participate among the Emmanuel Fellowship churches in India along with Christians of all other denominations.
HI Donor Relations Coordinator Ivy S. Bray told BosNewsLife that “the majority” of orphans supported the All India International Night Of Prayer and “will continue the prayer all night through dawn,” Saturday May 13. “But ofcourse not all the children are required to stay the whole night of prayer and that’s why it varies from place to place,” Bray added. Most orphans are Dalits, also known as the ‘untouchables’, the lowest caste in India ‘s ancient system of Hinduism. Many of them converted to Christianity, the main reason why militant Hindus are attacking groups like HI, several advocacy organizations say.
“On Saturday, depending on the local location, the kitchens will close for meals — sometimes all day and sometimes only for breakfast and lunch.” The official said that at HI headquarters in America , “we are having a half night prayer in the office from 8AM to midnight and it’s up to individuals and families to voluntarily set up their own prayer times.”
Samuel Thomas father and Co-Founder of HI, Bishop M.A. Thomas, told BosNewsLife in a statement that “the Lord wants us to learn how to ask and receive from Him. He said it was “part of the culture of Hopegivers that we must encourage. I never want our movement to forget how to pray in every situation.” Like his son, the 72-year old church leader was released on bail recently, amid international pressure.
The prayers come amid fresh reports of persecution by Hindu groups elsewhere in India . In one of the latest incident, a woman in the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh state reportedly accused six of her uncles and their pastor of trying to forcefully convert her to Christianity.
The men involved said the accusations are an attempt to get revenge after a dispute erupted over a drainage channel. Saroj Maurya, 35, approached local newspapers with a statement accusing her uncles and Assemblies of God Pastor Mehboob Masih of attempted forced conversion. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh told Masih he would meet the same fate as Australian missionary Graham Staines and two of his children, who were burned alive in Orissa state in January 1999, if he continued to hold prayer meetings, Christian news agency Compass Direct reported.
“They also said if I gathered people for prayer, they would instead hold a Hindu worship ceremony in my house,” Masih reportedly said. Church groups fear more tensions at a time of the widely anticipated release of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ film, which they perceive as anti-Christian.(With BosNewsLife Monitoring, Research and reports from India ).