About seven years ago David Platt — then pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham — challenged his congregation to do something big. He challenged them to “take India” — to pay for the child survival programs run by Compassion International in India for a whole year, a $525,000 price tag.
They did — in 2010 the congregation funded 21 child survival programs. In the years that followed, they funded 12.
But now, not only will Brook Hills not be able to provide for these programs in India — Compassion won’t be able to have them at all.
At the beginning of March, Compassion announced it was pulling out of India after 48 years, closing up shop on 589 church partner centers that were taking care of nearly 147,000 babies, children and young adults living in extreme poverty.
The reason? India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had begun blocking the Christian organization from sending money to its partners in India in May 2016, and Compassion had found no way to resolve the issue, according to the organization’s website.
U.S. leaders stepped in on Compassion’s behalf, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke with officials in India in summer 2016. More than 35,000 Compassion child sponsors wrote to Congress about the issue.
Stephen Oakley, Compassion’s senior vice president and general counsel, told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2016, “We’ve simply run out of funds (in India).”
The Indian government didn’t budge on blocking more from being sent in, and on March 15, Compassion pulled out of the South Asian nation.
Compassion president and CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado said in a press release, “Though we are saying farewell to Compassion’s current program in India, we know that God’s work has not ended. The local church in India remains committed to serving children living in poverty in their country. And the investment made by sponsors in their children’s lives has made a significant difference and will not be forgotten. We continue to lift up in prayer the children, families and staff who are affected by this difficult decision.”
India’s changing direction
The move is tragic but it’s a sign of greater growing concerns — for starters, that India is cracking down on foreign relief organizations in fear they are using humanitarian work to cover up evangelism, according to WORLD Magazine.
The nation uses its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to decide on what funds can be sent there, and the act — revised by MHA in 2011 — is now up to broad interpretation, WORLD reported. It includes a line that says the government can deny funds “for any activities detrimental to the national interest.”
That revision was seen by many as yet another step the government has taken toward Hindu nationalism since 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected, according to Christianity Today (CT).
About 11,500 nongovernmental organizations — both secular and Christian — in addition to Compassion have lost their licenses to operate in India in that window of time, WORLD reported.
Hinduism — which is claimed by 80 percent of the population — forms the “philosophical bedrock” of his ruling party, according to Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis site.
And attacks on Christians and Muslims have increased, according to CT. In 2013, India was No. 31 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians are persecuted; now it’s No. 15.
India has long been an officially secular nation with a variety of minority populations, but a “surging wave” of Hindu nationalism has started a “raging national debate” over India’s foundational principles.
In recent months controversies began to pop up and rally protesters — controversies such as the February 2016 arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a doctoral student and political activist, over charges of sedition. Protesters claimed Modi’s party was using heavy-handed Hindu nationalism to stifle democracy, according to Stratfor.
If what they accused Modi of progressed to the extreme, it would “entail the political and cultural subordination of the country’s Christian and Muslim populations,” Stratfor reported.
Such an intense case is unlikely in the short term but even a partial implementation is cause for concern, Stratfor wrote. Open Doors agrees there is cause for concern.
As a result of Modi’s election, “radical Hinduism, which was already present under the previous government, has increased steadily,” Open Doors wrote on its website.
Intolerance continues to rise and attacks on Christians have increased steadily, it said. An average of 40 incidents are being reported per month, “including pastors beaten, churches burned and Christians harassed. Of the 64 million Christians in India, approximately 39 million experience direct persecution.”
Communities of Hindus converting to Christianity have born the brunt of that persecution, Open Doors reported. “They are constantly under pressure to return to their old beliefs and are often physically assaulted, sometimes killed.” Protestant Christian communities who attempt to reach others are the second target, according to Open Doors.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, wrote that India is now “a country where Hindu extremists are vowing to erase the Christian faith by 2021.” (TAB)
How to help Christians in India
- Pray for those who are suffering, for believers under intense social pressure and in physical danger.
- Advocate on their behalf by sending the World Watch List to the President Trump.
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