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.

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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

to leave town – leaving behind anything they could not carry with them.

A Catholic nun protests recent violence

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That scene was repeated at Jharapata. A mob stopped 10 newly converted Christians who were returning home from a Sunday worship service, beat them and threatened them for five hours if they did not renounce Christ – and reveal who had led them to become Christians.

What would Gandhi have done? “The spirit of non-violence necessarily leads to humility,” he once wrote. “Non-violence means reliance on God, the rock of ages. If we would seek His aid, we must approach Him with a humble and contrite heart.”

The recent incidents “are driven by ultra-nationalist Hindus of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party,” writes an Indian Christian, Nirmala Carvalho. But even more disturbing, “in both cases, the police arrested the Christians.”

Police also sought evidence that the Christians must have bribed or forced the Hindus to convert to Christianity. In the village of Pati near the city of Indore in the Bhalwani district of India’s Madhya Pradesh state, the police arrested a preacher who, as with local practice, uses only a single name, Arjun, along with one of the faithful of his church, named Rakesh. The two were conducting a prayer meeting along with 75 other Christians.

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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