On March 24, India’s Prime Minister announced a 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This sudden announcement gave India’s 1.3 billion citizens only hours to prepare for the lockdown that has become one of the largest and strictest in the world.
Amongst the activities prohibited by the national lockdown are religious gatherings. Many churches in urban areas are still sharing times of worship through livestreaming amidst the pandemic. However, for poorer churches in rural and suburban areas, this isn’t possible due to lack of resources and connectivity.
With fewer people being allowed to leave their homes, you might think that Christians in India would be experiencing lower levels of violence. However, Christians in rural areas face more opposition than ever from their communities because of their faith. Reports have surfaced of our brothers and sisters being falsely accused, threatened and attacked.
“The pandemic has not stopped the growing persecution against the Christians,” a local Open Doors partner shares.
In one incident, a Christian brother named Shyam* and his family face constant opposition from his village. The villagers hurl hatred and abusive taunts, since Shyam and his family have refused to take the Ayurveda medicine—a type of alternative Hindu medicine—made by the villagers and a shaman in the area. The rumor is the medicine will keep the people safe from coronavirus and is being used by everyone else in the village. Anyone who won’t take the medicine is assumed to be infected with COVID-19. Since Shyam and his family haven’t taken the homeopathic remedy, they’ve been accused of secretly having coronavirus.
In another recent incident, Vinay*, a Christian leader in a small village, was brutally attacked. He was returning to his home from a house prayer meeting when a few extremists caught him and threatened him. They also destroyed his bike and beat him badly. After the attack, when Vinay* approached the police to lodge a complaint, they refused to cooperate and sent him away without taking any action.
An Open Doors local partner says, “There is no doubt this is a time of wilderness for many of us, and the thing about this pandemic and lockdown is that we don’t know where it’s going to lead, how long our time is going to be. It seems that one day proceeds to another and there’s no end in sight. India needs more prayers than ever during this time.”
This is why Open Doors has mobilized to bring emergency aid and help to persecuted believers in India and other countries. Your gifts and prayers are literally saving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable believers.
MANY REACHED; MANY MORE TO REACH
Hundreds of thousands of persecuted Christians in India are severely affected. The lockdown is having a devastating effect on the huge number of Indians who are daily wage labourers and now can’t get food. As another Open Doors partner share, “In the slum areas people are now totally dependent upon the food being distributed by the government and social organisations. We constantly receive calls and messages from Christian communities where people have no food for their children or family members. It is heart-breaking to hear about the difficulties our brothers and sisters are going through.”
India’s poorest communities – where many of the country’s Christians live – are also particularly vulnerable to the virus. There’s no space for social distancing in a slum, and hygiene levels are always low. “Masks and sanitisers would be a luxury for them,” says the Open Doors partner. “They don’t have even one proper set of clothes to cover their bodies, nor soap to wash their hands.”
In many cases, even before the lockdown, Christians in India are denied access to water, education, or government rations on the basis of their faith.
But there is good news. Thanks to your support, vital aid is getting to persecuted Christians in great need.
“We had very little food and were very worried about what would happen,” says Sujata* in West India, a single mother whose husband left when she became a Christian a few years ago. Her daily work on a construction site ended and she had no wages. “We didn’t lose hope but we prayed to God. In answer to our prayer God sent His people with groceries! We are so thankful to the team for helping us in this time of extreme need.”
RISK AND JOY
“We have already reached a few hundred persecuted Christian families; we are so thankful to God who enabled all this,” says an Open Doors partner. The teams are courageously facing two risks: coronavirus infection, and attack by those who persecute Christians in the region.
“We have to find a safe place to meet persecuted Christians and provide them with necessities without letting people know. If the families are unable to come and are in desperate need, we are trying to reach them. Sometimes it takes a whole day to reach one persecuted family – due to the lockdown we face many hurdles.
“Despite the risks, when we finally meet the families and provide them with the material, we feel so much joy! Several times people have cried a lot while thanking Open Doors supporters and God for the provisions.
“During these times I am reminded of Matthew 25 where Jesus says, ‘…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..’ We are so glad to be of service to our brothers and sisters.”
Please give doing what you can for your persecuted family in India and elsewhere. Your prayers and gifts are more crucial than ever – thank you for partnering in this courageous task, to follow what Jesus taught us in Matthew 25.
- Thank God that He is using the Open Doors partners to reach His children, and for their faithfulness and willingness to reach our brothers and sisters in India
- For protection for those delivering and receiving aid, from both the virus and the acts of Hindu extremists
- That the government would act with wisdom and integrity in the distribution of food and without discrimination towards Christians
*names changed for security reasons
Isolated believers under Covid-19 lock-down need your help