India's Christians ask: What would Gandhi do?

St. Thomas brought the faith to the subcontinent in 52 a.d. and Gandhi called for peace and plurality -- but persecution is growing.

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor

 

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man can change at will and put on at will? Creeds are such for which people live for ages and ages.”

Gandhi in 1942 with India’s first president, Nehru

One cannot give up the truth when faced with ridicule or public humiliation, Gandhi taught: “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody will see it.”

Using modern technology, India’s Christians have written to friends throughout the country as well as to outside groups such as Compass Direct, International Christian Concern, Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. Their plight has become of enormous concern to millions of Christians worldwide, who are praying for them. However, the converts have not pleaded for armed intervention – or even for groups of fellow Indian Christians to hurry to Assam to defend them.

Christians in Orissa worshipping after their church building was torched

Instead, their messages tell of the honor they feel to be treated in the same way as so many great founders of Christianity – and of Gandhi – who himself was martyred by such Hindu extremists for proclaiming such things as:

“Hatred ever kills, love never dies such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.”

And: “God is, even though the whole world deny him. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained. Defeat cannot dishearten me. I know that God will guide me. Truth is superior to man’s wisdom.”

Gandhi’s advice shortly before he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet?

“There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, the voice of conscience – even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.

How did Gandhi suggest standing up to persecution?

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.”

Gandhi’s dream for India was of a pluralistic society – with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians and Buddhists living side by side in peace on the vast subcontinent. However, history records the violent riots that resulted in the partition of India and the formation of separate Muslim countries that became Pakistan and Bangladesh.

A burning church building

Now, Christians throughout India are worrying about Gandhi’s dream. When your family is being driven out of their home because of your faith, it is not easy to rejoice and be glad. Even so, the Indian Christians tell of finding peace knowing they are fulfilling Jesus’ words that they would be hated, hunted down, persecuted – and forced to leave everything.

Days after the first incidents, a mob from a local Hindu student union, along with extremists from the towns of Tulsibari and Jharapata, attacked various Christians in Tulsibari, according to a variety of reports.

The extremists dragged Christians out of their homes and forced them to attend a public meeting where the Hindus threatened to expel the new Christians from their homes – or kill them – if they did not denounce Christianity and re-embrace the Hindu gods. When the Christians refused, the extremists beat two of them, including a  widow, and tried to force them to sign a blank paper before hundreds of witnesses. The paper would have then been filled in with pledges that would legally reconvert the Christians to Hinduism.

When the Christians refused, they were told they would be forced

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