The Burden of the Cross

  When Americans think of India, the image that often comes to mind is that of gentle priests or holy men like Gandhi, committed to non-violence. Or they may think of the Jain monks, sweeping the ground before them lest they accidentally step on an insect. What we might not know, however, is that in some parts of India today, there's a glaring exception to this spirit of non-violence -- and the targets are mainly Christians. While there have been Christians in India since the second century after Christ, they've never formed more than a tiny part of the sub-continent's population -- three percent at most. Since India's independence from Britain in 1947, their constitution has guaranteed religious liberty and tolerance for all citizens. And for nearly five decades, the Indian governments had been secular -- comprised of members from all India's faiths, including Christians. But this attitude of tolerance started to change in 1996 when the Hindu nationalist party came to power. As the Washington Post recently reported, the installation of the Hindu government has emboldened Hindu extremists, who bitterly oppose any Christian presence in India. One told the Washington Post, "the biggest danger to our religion is from Christianity. . . . It is like sweet poison." The campaign against Christians includes the distribution of literature throughout New Delhi and the north warning readers of a "Christian conspiracy" to take over India through the "forced conversion" of peasants. This incites violence, and in the past eighteen months, there have been more than 30 documented attacks by Hindu extremists against Christians. Churches bombed; Bibles seized and burned; and four ministers have been killed, including the Australian missionary, Graham Staines, who was burned to death with his two young sons. The 30 million Indian Christians are at risk -- the worst crisis since the nation's founding. Predictably, India's government denies this. They call the attacks "isolated" and insist these incidents must be viewed "in [their] proper perspective." Afraid of alienating their Hindu base, the government refuses to look at the evidence squarely -- refuses to see the connection between the increasingly strident anti-Christian rhetoric and the growing violence. In fact, local authorities are so intent on turning a blind eye that they don't even question Hindu extremists. This is a great tragedy, for India needs the gospel. I have preached in many parts of that country and in several prisons. Hinduism is a religion of despair. What you do in this life will be done to you in the next. No salvation. No hope. When they hear the gospel, however, their eyes open brightly. When they hear that their sins can be forgiven, I have seen them come to Christ by the thousands. And, of course, that is exactly why the government is responding as it is. Well, obviously Indian Christians do not have much clout with the current government. So, if the case is to be heard, their Western brethren -- that's us -- have to make it for them. American Christians must pressure our government to take India to task for its neglect of the basic human rights of 30 million people. We ought to tell our elected officials that if India wants to be treated like a civilized nation, then it ought to offer all its citizens the full protection of law. This is our duty before God. India may seem remote to many of us, but need I remind you, these are our brothers and sisters in Christ.


Chuck Colson


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