Caste Aside: Learning from India’s Christianity Crisis

Earlier this week, Christianity Today, brought attention to the installation of a new president in India. The election has significance because it indicates a transformation taking place withdrawing the oppression of a specific group within India (the Dalits, the lowest of all Hindu castes in India). However, it raises concern for another group: Christians.
Considering the large population in India, the estimated 25-60 million Christians represents a very small percentage. However, if they were separated out that number would rank them within the top 50 most populous nations in the world (and as high as the 23rd most populous if we used the highest estimation of 60 million). Therefore, the concern is not for a small group of people, but rather a quite large one.
At this point, most of the concern is simply speculation, but the seriousness of the potential reality has united both Protestant and Catholic leaders in efforts to draw attention to the potential plight. There is an increased advocation of prayer specifically for the country and its leaders. August 10th has been designated as a day of demonstration to draw attention to the cause. And certainly, individuals are advocating in varying ways. For many Christians, the circumstances bring forth a number of questions that include what role they should or should not play, is it appropriate to advocate, and even should they demonstrate? Thus, there are lessons to be learned when looking at the situation in India.
Quite simply, the answer to those questions is that it depends on the situation. That is not meant to be evasive, but rather reflects the delicate nature of these questions. For example, should Christians demonstrate? Sometimes such action is warranted and can be profitable. However, demonstrations can be destructive and hurtful and of course, in this case, Christians should abstain. The question about Christians’ participation then comes down to whether or not the actions and/or instructions glorify God and are more likely to do more harm than good for the long-term.
Instead of answering specific questions like that, as Christians look to the situation in India we should consider some long-term and overarching aspects that should be part of what we do. The biggest thing we can do is create both awareness and action in the following ways:
  • Through Interest: The first is for Christians to highlight the plight of other Christians around the world. Utilizing information from reliable websites (such as persecution.org, Christianity Today, as examples) we can create interest by generating discussion and highlighting the events within the church, through e-mails, and discussions within the body of Christ. However, we must do so in ways that spur healthy dialogue and concern.
  • Through Prayer: Using that same information it is easy to share prayer points with one another in small groups, in the bulletins, or through e-mail groups. Not only then are people taking an interest, but they are taking a role in what is taking place and indicating a trust in God.
  • Through Scripture: Finally, the biggest tool we have is Scripture. At one point in the article from Christianity Today one person shares that they do not preach about the benefits of one president over another, a methodology that we should all agree. Rather than use our teaching time to tell people what they should think, we should use it to teach Scripture and equip them with the tools that help them to think. Teach them what Scripture says and they can use that to filter world events and activities and come to their own conclusions based on God’s truth.
By doing these we place an emphasis not on world events, but on God’s sovereignty during the world events. It creates trust in Him while at the same time causing Christians to be active rather than complacent.
Earlier this year I wrote about our need to be careful about how we use the word ‘persecution.’ It is a term that is often loosely used in even the most minimal of circumstances. Therefore, I do think we need to be cautious in how that word is used. However, neither do I think we need to be so reserved that we are not noting what is taking place against Christians around the globe on a variety of scales.
The concerns in India do not stand alone.  Many of us have become complacent in that we expect stories of persecution and oppression to come out of certain parts of the world, but looking at recent events tells us that Christians around the world are susceptible to it. In the past few months, stories of attack upon the Christian worldview and ability to live that worldview have come out of places such as Canada, Germany, Australia, and the United States. These are countries that supposedly allow freedom to practice one’s own religion. They bring our attention to what’s at stake and taking lessons from India, we learn of that in order to stand against the oppression, we must stand firm in the truth.
To read the story “Caste Aside: India’s New President Has No Room for Christians’ at Christianity Today, click here.

Photo “India” courtesy of user ‘Sandeepachetan.com’ and Flickr.