An Overview and Plea: Christian Persecution in India

Dear AD2000 Brothers & Sisters:

I have recently received the following message from Richard Howell, the current General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which relates to much worldwide dialogue transpiring out of recent persecutions in India. I believe it is excellent perspective from "inside the nation" for all of us to see, consider and pray over - as our deeper understanding of the embedded issues there are enhanced to aid our ongoing interchange with others, both within and without the Indian sub-continent. May God bless it to your understanding and ongoing purposes.

That all may hear!

Luis Bush
International Director
AD2000 & Beyond Movement


An Overview and Plea: Christian Persecution in India

Indian identity is pluralistic and this is accepted worldwide. More so, it is due to the minority communities like Christians, Muslims and Sikh that India enjoys the status of being a pluralistic country.

The recent identity crisis is politically created by the 'Sangh Parivar' and its main constitutent the RSS. Let me explain: The RSS ideology defines nation as ethnically and culturally, not politically. This means that in India only those who belong to the Hindu religion ethnically and culturally are part of the nation. The other -Christians and Muslims - are to be hated and rejected for they do not belong to the nation. More so, Christianity is viewed as the religion of the colonizers and Islam as the religion of the invaders, hence of alien origin and therefore must be rejected. The move of the Sangh Parivar is to make India into a Hindu nation.

You will remember that the partition of India took place on the basis of a two-nation theory. That is Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus. Pakistan has gradually moved to become an Islamic state. And now from a moderate Islamic state to a fundamentalistic Islamic state where the Shariat, the Islamic law, will be implemented and its present constitution will be no longer valid.

India, I say proudly, has resisted any move towards becoming a Hindu nation. In the course of persecution of Christians I along with catholic and other Protestant leaders have met many secular Hindu NGO'S and Marxist party leaders who understand the game plan of the Sangh Parivar very well they have spoken with in the parliament and outside on behalf of Christians. Christians have upheld the constitution of India and have not done any thing illegal to merit persecution.

The persecution of Christians is part of the anti-minority campaign of the Sangh Parivar. In 1984 the persecuted the Sikh community, but the Sikhs retaliated and thousands of innocent people were killed. In 1992 the Sangh Parivar fell the Babri mosque and they killed Muslims, but the Muslims also retaliated and they stopped killing Muslims. More over, the felling of the Mosque was to create hatred against Muslims and unite the Hindus to gain political power. In this the Sangh Parivar succeeded. Now the move is against Christians with the sole purpose to arouse feelings of hatred and unite Hindus, but thank God Christians did not retaliate. In fact the cause of the gospel has been furthered and the Church continues to grow. The persecution of Christians was, as per the reports we have received, planned many years ago. The RSS now are finding reasons to justify persecution.

We had a dialogue with the BJP and RSS leaders in the month of December '98. The Catholic Church leaders, the Protestant Church. I had the privilege to represent the Evangelical wing of the Church in India. It was an open dialogue and we had free and frank discussion. It led to a greater understanding of each other's position. But let me state the main issue is the claims of Jesus Christ. Why do you say Jesus is the only way? Why do you convert? The main issue in the persecution of Christians is the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a Bible believing Christian ignore the offence of the gospel? This is not rhetoric but pure gospel. In fact the persecution has helped the Church to take a stand for Jesus; on the other hand many Church leaders have gone to the extent of saying that we should not preach that Jesus is the only way. During the course of the dialogue it was stated that the Christians should adopt India culture which is Hindu culture and they should be called Hindu Christian. As I stated earlier, this is to define the nation of India ethnically and culturally.

There appeared an article in one of our news papers, written by a Hindu, which clearly stated that even those Churches which have adopted the Indian culture continue to convert, hence they must be opposed. The problem is not the Christian rhetoric, it is the Christian gospel that leads to persecution. So for us to believe that Christian rhetoric has fuelled persecution is far from truth; in fact we would legitimise a blatant falsehood, a lie if we were to agree that Christian rhetoric led to or fuelled persecution to a certain degree. We would fall into the trap set for us.

It also should be noted that persecution has taken place in North India primarily and not in South India. That to primarily among the tribals. The tribals are not part of the Hindu caste system, in fact they are animists and not Hindus. This creates a problem for the RSS definition of Hindu nation, therefore they are involved in converting tribals to Hinduism. The RSS definition of nationalism is linked with Hindu religion, therefore Christians and Muslims according to their definition cannot be nationalistic. The tribals must also therefore be somehow brought under the Hindu fold.

Now to talk about the A.D 2000 Movement and Beyond, they have done a commendable work in North India. The reports, which were published in book form and put on the web site, had the approval of the writer. Nothing was put on the web site, which did not have the approval of North Indian leadership. In fact, one of the first reports was of Delhi, of which I am the coordinator. This report was downloaded by a journalist who approached me for an interview on the report. I gave an interview along with answering the questions on the report. This was carried in the major English Newspaper and translated into regional languages. I spoke about our constitutional right to propagate, along with other things, and I also had to answer questions about the AD 2000 Movement. After two days I had two people from the intelligence department who came to question me on the basis of the interview I gave. Believe me, it was stressful to go through the ordeal but it was an opportunity to stand for Jesus Christ and the freedom to believe what I believe is guaranteed by the constitution of India. Further, the AD 2000 Movement has never been quoted alone in the press, it has always been quoted along with the Vatican movement of Vision 2000, which also talks about evangelisation. I assure you the persecution is not due to the AD 2000 Movement or the Vatican Vision 2000. The persecution is primarily of pentecostal and evangelical Churches which have nothing to do with AD 2000 movement. The Roman Catholic Church has been very less persecuted. Not a single Catholic Church has been destroyed. There are other reasons, which relate to reconciliation, which have to be addressed. Wherever the church planters have built bridges with the non-Christian communities they have not experienced persecution. So it is our evangelistic methods that have to be looked into.

I can go on writing giving many other reasons, but let me just state what the lawyer of the Wadhwa commission investigating the murder of Graham Staines and his two sons said when I spent two hours explaining my perspective on the persecution of Christians. He said Christian unity in India is of utmost importance. But I hear from responsible church leaders how disunited the Church is. I assured him that as EFI leader I stand for unity. EFI has worked with all the main line denominations. And we strive for unity. Let me also add the issue is not just of Christian's persecution. It is much larger, which includes all minorities and the very constitution of India. So we even work with other minority groups. I can only request that those involved in this issue promote the fragile unity in the Indian Church and among evangelicals in particular, from an improved position of understanding and sensitivity to the issues at hand.

Sincerely in Him,

Richard Howell

If you would like to contact Richard Howell, please email him at efiindia@del2.vsnl.net.in.

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