The Baptist Tibet?

If I were to ask you to name the most Baptist state, you would probably guess Georgia, Alabama, or somewhere else in the South. The correct answer is the Indian state of Nagaland. More than 90 percent of its two million inhabitants are Christians, and more than 80 percent are Baptists. And there’s nothing nominal about their Christianity. Church attendance is “very high” in Nagaland. What makes these numbers even more remarkable is that, as recently as 125 years ago, many Nagas were head-hunters! They were converted to Christianity through the work of courageous Baptist missionaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Christianity not only transformed individuals, but Naga society, as well: Nagaland’s literacy rate is four times that of the rest of India; they have “created effective health care programs”; and their goal is to send 10,000 missionaries to India, Burma, and the rest of Asia. It will come as no surprise that the Nagas’ relationship with the rest of India is tense. Ethnic and religious differences led to what has been called India’s “dirty little war” in which at least 200,000 Nagas were killed during the last half of the twentieth century. Indian troops “burned entire villages, raped women in churches, and then burned the churches.” Even after a cease-fire, Indian troops continued to show “disdain for the Nagas’ churches and religion,” prompting the Christian Century to compare India’s treatment of Nagaland to China’s treatment of Tibet. Recently, the Nagas, like the rest of India’s 23 million Christians, have experienced discrimination, even violence, from Hindu nationalists. The former ruling party, the BJP, as part of its “Hinduization” program, enacted laws aimed at preventing conversions to Christianity; and its followers burned churches and even killed pastors and parishioners. While the BJP’s surprise defeat at the polls two years ago temporarily derailed the most aggressive aspects of Hinduization, India’s Christians are by no means secure. The BJP lost power because of economic conditions, not because of its treatment of religious minorities. And the Hindu majority is out of power only for a season. Religious freedom is far too important to be so vulnerable to the whims of this or any other majority. Ending this vulnerability is one of the goals of the “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church,” which will be observed this Sunday, November 12. In addition to the vital task of intercessory prayer, the sponsors hope to “increase awareness of the persecuted Church worldwide” and “promote ongoing and appropriate action on behalf of the persecuted Church.” That means using international pressure. The need for awareness is urgent. While the Nagas’ situation is better than that of other persecuted Christians, if it can happen in a democracy like India, it can happen almost anywhere. The Nagas are living proof of the Gospel’s power to transform lives and even whole societies. We need to do what we can so that they will add more chapters to an already-remarkable tale.  
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: This Persecution Map illustrates key areas where persecution of believers occurs, and this four-page list of Critical Prayer Requests for Strategic Nations is great for families and churches to focus their prayer for the persecuted. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.) Learn more about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, November 12, 2006. John Sundquist, “Abuses in Nagaland—Violation of Naga Rights in Northeast India,” Christian Century, 15 July 1998. Joshua Newton and ENI, “Hindu Leaders Crack Down on Conversions,” Christianity Today, 1 November 2003. Anto Akkara ENI, “Indian Churches Hail the Defeat of Hindu-Nationalist Government,” Christianity Today, 1 May 2004. Joseph D’Souza, “India’s Historic Elections and the Hand of God,” Christianity Today, 1 May 2004. Manpreet Singh, “The Soul Hunters of Central Asia,” Christianity Today, 1 February 2006. Roberto Rivera, “The Baptist Tibet?” The Point, 3 October 2006. Roberto Rivera, “Mission of Burma,” The Point, 1 November 2006. Kristin Wright, “Lonely, Flickering Light: Adoniram Judson and the Church in Burma,” BreakPoint Online, 24 October 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040503, “Touching the Untouchable: India Targets Christian Converts.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 051110, “Our Particular Concern: Praying for the Persecuted Church.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 061016, “Save Us from the Time of Trial: Religious Persecution.” Kristin Wright, “Standing with the Persecuted Church,” BreakPoint Online, 6 November 2003.


Chuck Colson



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