Indian Christians Look to Upcoming National Election with Hope and Anxiety
By ICC’s India Correspondent
02/13/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “We are very anxious about this election and worried what will happen if the ruling government will come back for another term,” Pastor Omprakash recently shared with International Christian Concern (ICC). India’s national elections, due to take place in April, are considered a very crucial time to much of India’s population, including Christians.
In anticipation of the elections, ICC spoke to three pastors from states with significant levels of persecution. ICC asked these pastors to share their thoughts on the upcoming election and what they would like to see in India’s next government.
“We have endured more unrest under the present government than previous governments,” Pastor Omprakash explained to ICC. “If the ruling party comes to power again, we fear that there won’t be any freedom for Christians to hold prayer meetings and worship.”
Pastor Omprakash leads an ‘Aradhana Sabha’ (worship place) in a remote village in the Sultanpur District of India’s Uttar Pradesh state. He and his congregation were brutally attacked by Hindu radicals on February 7 during the small prayer gathering. Six members of Pastor Omprakash’s congregation were hospitalized with serious injuries as a result.
“I have been jailed twice during the tenure of the present government,” Pastor Omprakash continued. “The ‘crime’ I have committed was conducting prayers.”
In Uttar Pradesh alone, ICC recorded 114 incidents of persecution against Christians in 2018. Uttar Pradesh experienced the highest number of incidents of persecution throughout the nation, which included physical attacks, disruption of worship services, and the illegal detention of pastors and other Christians.
“As for me, I want a government in power that loves everyone, irrespective of religion and caste,” Pastor Prabhakar from Upparpalli village, located in Telangana state, told ICC. “I recognize that Christians faced difficult times in the last four or five years. They have suffered because of their religious identity. We are praying that the Lord will bring [the] right people and right party into power.”
“I have been jailed twice during the tenure of the present government. The ‘crime’ I have committed was conducting prayers.”
Pastor Prabhakar, senior pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Upparpalli, was also the victim of persecution earlier this month. On February 2, suspected Hindu radicals burned down his church. The incident shook the entire Christian community in the area. Pastor Prabhakar explained that the burning of his church was the third incident of persecution in the district in the last month and a half.
“Ache din Anevala hi (Good times are going to come),” Pastor Ajay Ravi told ICC. “In my opinion, neither the BJP nor the Congress Party is going to form the next government. They are the two sides of the same coin in how they treat minorities.”
“Christians have endured endless violence under both regimes,” Pastor Ravi added. “But the violence has peaked in the last five years. We are praying and hoping that God will bring [the] right people and party into power. People who will work for the unity of the country and protect everyone irrespective of religion and caste.”
On January 27, Hindu radicals violently attacked Pastor Ravi and his congregation during a Sunday worship service. The radicals ransacked the church, destroyed church property, and beat up Pastor Ravi and other Christians who had gathered for worship.
“I will vote for whoever gives me confidence in providing a safe environment for all religions to stay in this country without fear, and to practice their faith freely,” Pastor Ravi concluded.
For Pastor Omprakash, Hindu radicals want to suppress the work of God by spreading hate and fear against Christians. However, Pastor Omprakash explains that radicals are not achieving their desired goal. “More people are embracing Jesus, in spite of intense pressures and persecution,” Pastor Omprakash reported. “Even though we are worried about the extreme levels of persecution, we take comfort in the scripture and live for Him. As [the] Bible says, we are living in the end times and trials are part of Christian living.”
Looking back, 2018 was yet another difficult year for Christians in India. ICC documented 305 incidents of persecution across the country. These incidents affected thousands of Christians who paid a heavy price for following Jesus. According to Open Doors’ Word Watch List, India is among the top 10 most persecuted nations in the world.
If there is one thing that Indian Christians want from 2019 national election, it would be a government that respects religious freedom and simply enforces the rule of law for minorities. Let’s join Indian Christians in prayer that the next government will prioritize the freedom of religion and the rights of religious minorities.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org