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Persecution on the Increase in India

Contact: Taun Cortado, Gospel for Asia, 800-946-2742, taunc@gfa.org

CARROLLTON, Texas, Apr. 5 /Christian Newswire/ -- Persecution of Christians appears to be increasing in scope and intensity in India. During one recent 24-hour period, Gospel for Asia correspondents reported three serious incidents of persecution that clearly demonstrate the increased boldness of anti-Christian extremists in the country.

"As the Nazis in Germany believed that the Jewish race must be eradicated - which led to the brutal killing of 6 million innocent Jewish people, the Hindu religion's extremists are determined to do all they can to hurt those who believe and follow Christ," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan. "These minority extremists don't represent India nor the sentiments of the Hindu majority of the land."

These extremists consistently accuse Christians of forcibly converting people to Christianity. The extremists say that Christians use "allurement" to convince people to receive Jesus as their Savior. This is often the accusation when the conversion comes after a healing. However, in most cases, the people come to the missionaries requesting prayer for healing.

The extremists are very concerned about the growing number of people leaving the Hindu religion, which is viewed by many as the official religion of India. Many people say that "to be Indian is to be Hindu." Leaders in the anti-Christian movement contend they are simply maintaining a cohesive Indian society by ensuring that Hinduism remains the country's chief religion.

No matter the reason, these recent reports of persecution are clear indicators that preaching the Gospel and following Christ are dangerous propositions for the people of India.

Students attacked in Punjab
On March 26, about 40 anti-Christian extremists attacked a group of 15 students who live and study in a Gospel for Asia-related home Bible school in Punjab, in northwest India. The 40 extremists, who are all reported to be teenagers, beat up the students. Thirteen of the students fled to a nearby GFA-affiliated church, and two ran back to their homes to escape the extremists.

The students have been actively involved in sharing the Gospel with people in the village where the Bible school is located. The extremists saw what they were doing and warned them to stop. The students continued to share the Gospel and pray for the people in the village, which angered the youths.
The students were eventually able to return to their home after the attacks. Their Bible school teacher asks that Christians around the world would pray that his students would not lose heart and that they would remain bold in their calling.

Believers, pastor, persecuted in Jharkhand
Gospel for Asia missionary Prakash Ramteki was attacked on March 18 as he walked home from a nearby village where he had been ministering to the people. Prakesh's attackers accused him of forcibly converting the people to Christianity. He sustained injuries to his head and hands, and was hospitalized following the attack.

The attackers also stole Prakesh's cell phone and Bible, and warned him never to return to the village. Prakesh must return to that village because he pastors a church there. Each week he conducts Sunday services, and stays in the village Monday to conduct a Bible study and visit people in the area.

Attacks on missionaries have unfortunately become all too common, and now believers are increasingly coming under attack, too. Deepti Pradhan was a Hindu woman who received Jesus as her Savior. Her oldest son, Janardin, also chose to follow Christ. Their decision became a source of tension within their family, and the tension soon spread out into their village in Jharkhand.

Hindu extremists who live there led a charge to harass Deepti and Janardin. They even tried to keep them from attending church. In spite of the harassment, the mother and son continued to follow Jesus and seek after Him.

The villagers increased the attacks, going after the family's livelihood by cutting down some of their trees and preventing them from cultivating their rice paddy and vegetable plants. This put the family in a severe crisis situation.

The extremists became even bolder and broke into the family's home, chasing out Deepti and all three of her sons. The family found refuge in Pastor Masudan Singh's home that night.

On March 25, the extremists disrupted a worship service at the Gospel for Asia-affiliated church that Deepti and Janardin attend. They accused Pastor Masudan of forcible conversions of Hindus to Christianity, and told him to leave the church and the village. They also planned to put the believers through a program to "reconvert" them to Hinduism. The believers stood together, protected their pastor and refused to participate in the conversion back to Hinduism.

Jharkhand is ruled by the Hindu political party, which has unsuccessfully tried to put an anti-conversion law in place. The bill was voted down in 2006, but it is expected to reappear.

GFA leaders in that area ask for prayer specifically for Prakesh, that he would recover from his injuries, and that God would provide all his needs and bless his ministry abundantly. They also ask for prayer for Deepti, Janardin and the other believers in pastor Masudan's church, that the Lord would protect them and that the extremists would come to know Jesus as their Savior.

"We cannot be silent nor ignore what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in India," Yohannan said. "We must pray and fast for God to intervene and bring about a heart change and give boldness to His people to love and proclaim the Good News in the midst of persecution."

Gospel for Asia is a mission organization involved in evangelism and church planting in Asia's unreached regions. Currently Gospel for Asia supports more than 16,000 church planters in 10 countries of South Asia. On average, these missionaries establish approximately 10 fellowships every day among unreached villages and people groups. Gospel for Asia is also committed to training native missionaries. The organization's 54 Bible colleges are preparing nearly 9,000 students to become full-time church planters.