First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
As we continue our Get to Know (G2K) India series, this week we will be touching on the make up of the government in India. Before moving much forward, I must confess, that History and Government classes were not those that kept my attention, therefore, I will not pretend to know what I’m talking about when discussing the inner workings of the Indian government and its branches, but I will discuss what we’ve gleaned from our experiences in India in the past as well as recent headlines.
According to India.gov.in, India is a “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic” with a parliamentary system of government. For all of you Political buffs out there you can read up on the makeup of the Indian government. From what I understand, there are multiple parties, like we have here in the US and there are elections that take place every five years. The parties are very passionate about their views as well. When we were in India in February 2017, we noticed a lot of signs and posters of candidates running for their respective offices. One of the things that really impacted me was the history of conflict among one another. In fact, while we were there, public transportation had been shut down on a Sunday as there was an instance where two parties had violent confrontations which ultimately resulted in one member dying from injuries they experienced in the situation. This happens at a level of frequency that they actually have a code of conduct that the government then shuts down in this instance.
In researching this, I stumbled upon a similar situation which just happened last month in Kerala, the state that GCM is located in. This was another altercation between the two main political parties, the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One was killed, followed by a revenge attack the resulting in the death of the other. Again, the government shutdown as a result of this violence.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
In addition to the violence between parties and the political tension in India, we have to consider the impact the ruling parties have when it comes down to hinderance of the spread of the Gospel and church growth in India. In the coming weeks we will discuss specific church persecution issues that Christians are facing, but for today we will discuss what influence the Indian government is currently under. The BJP mentioned above is a fundamentalist Hindu Political party and as of early 2017, they have the majority seats in the state legislature in a large number of states in India, most importantly, Uttar Pradesh, the most populated region of India.
So, how does this impact GCM and other Christian organizations working to spread the love of Jesus in India? When Prime Minister Modi took office in 2014, the government has worked to revoke the license of over 11,000 organizations that received international funds. In fact, in 2016, India’s largest single donor, the Christian organization Compassion International had their pipeline shut down with their partners in India due to this restriction. This will result in $45 million in loss funds that supported Gospel work in churches and communities. I remember the heartache our family felt following this story as we had a child that we were sponsoring monthly could no longer receive our support. It wasn’t just financial support. We have developed a relationship with this boy over for two years. My boys would send letters and draw pictures to send to him and he would write back to us and tell us about his life and how we could pray for him and his family. What a blessing that organization has been to the nation of India. A video on the Compassion International story can be found here.
While the Indian government is primarily Hindu influenced and seeming to become less open to supporting Christian organizations, they do claim to be a nation of religious freedoms. With that in mind, several states have in place Anti-Conversion Laws to “prevent any person from converting or attempting to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person through “forcible” or “fraudulent” means, or by “allurement” or “inducement.”” Penalties for breaking this law can include 1-3 years of imprisonment, and fines ranging up to $1000. We know that God’s call on a follower of Jesus’ is through faith alone by his grace alone through the hearing and receiving of the good news of Jesus Christ. And it is God that does the regeneration and true conversion in a believer’s heart. In India, from what I understand, evidence of forcible conversion can be up to interpretation and the enforcement and prosecution of this seems to have some gray areas. Witnessing baptisms is one target that those enforcing this go after. In the Christian faith, conversion is outwardly evidenced through the act of baptism. Baptism is the obedient outward expression of our commitment to follow Jesus. Not the means by which we follow Jesus, but the evidence and witness of our death to sin and a new life led by the Spirit. We pray for obedience to those in India that are handling God’s word and delivering it to a lost nation. We pray that they deliver it with boldness and disciple those baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And that they teach their churches all that God has commanded, knowing that Jesus is with them to the end.