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Christian Missionaries Facing Difficulties in India As Hindu Extremists Scheme Against Conversions

( [email protected] ) Dec 08, 2015 01:46 PM EST
Missionaries sharing the Gospel in northern India are experiencing difficulties as the Hindu government is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christian conversion -- even attempting to set up legal traps for those who attempt to proselytize.
A woman cries as she stands on debris from her gutted hut after a fire occurred in a slum area in Mumbai, India, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Missionaries sharing the Gospel in northern India are experiencing difficulties as the Hindu government is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christian conversion -- even attempting to set up legal traps for those who attempt to proselytize.

Kanak Chauhan, an evangelist who directs a regional ministry and oversees churches in the northern city of Chandigarh, told the Christian Aid Mission that he receives at least one call a week from Hindus trying to trick him into making statements that would open him to accusations of encouraging people to embrace Christianity.

"I received a call from this lady who said, 'I have read about Christ, and I want to change my religion,'" he said, explaining that the calls are often recorded. "She was pushing me to say something like, 'I will help you to change your religion,' and once I say that, it can become a problem in India."

However, the pastor, who heads an indigenous ministry that has planted more than two dozen fellowships, makes an effort to use tact when responding to such calls.

"We try to use wise words, so instead of 'changing religion,' we say it's not about religion, it's about the heart," he said. "We have to be very careful. I will not say what they're trying to get me to say. I will say, 'Okay, we can talk about this, just come to meet us, and we can sit and we can talk.' If they are genuine, they will come and meet me. They never show up. They try a lot of these techniques and tricks."

In addition to leveling such false allegations at Christians, Hindu extremists are conducting mass Ghar Wapsi ("homecoming") events designed to coerce people to "reconvert" to Hinduism, he said.

"They are literally threatening people to come back to Hinduism, and no one says anything about it," the pastor said

India, which is 74 percent Hindu and 6 percent Christian,  is ranked #21 on Open Doors USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians experience severe persecution.

"At the top level the influence of fundamentalist Hindus has increased," notes the report. "Hindu radicals have started monitoring Christian activity in much detail. Many of them have planted spies in churches. Reports of pastors and church members beaten because of allegations of conversion are frequent; sometimes Christians are even killed."

"The government is watching all organizations and the kind of work they do, especially those very active in spiritual activities," Pastor Chauhan concurred. "They've started targeting them and started closing their non-profit accounts, so that's why it's important to have a balance between programs meeting physical needs and spiritual needs. It helps us to attain a good name inside the government."

Christian Aid Mission also notes that while India has yet to pass a law banning coerced or induced conversion, national laws already exist against criminal intimidation. Thus, attempts to force a person to convert to another religion could be prosecuted under these and other provisions.

"There are some who will take baptism, and after they're baptized, they'll accuse you, saying, 'This pastor baptized me, and he offered me this much money,'" Pastor Chauhan said. "They will just make these false statements."

Despite such risks, Pastor Chauhan and his team have established 11 churches, as well as six fellowships in Uttarakhand state, and seven in Punjab state. The organization works to provide food, education, and spiritual assistance to those in need. The fellowships have formed primarily as a result of team members sharing the gospel with friends, but the ministry also organizes evangelistic events.

"Evangelistic campaign events are the riskiest thing now, but risk is the other name of faith, so we have to do that," he said. "Evangelistic events require a lot of resources and finances, but we get big results; 3,000 people attended a campaign in Punjab recently, and around 250 repented the first day."

Pastor Chauhan is an ardent believer in the power of the Gospel, as he was once a devout worshipper of the Hindu monkey-faced god Hanuman.

"For Hindus, he's like Superman - he can fly, he has a tail that can grow to any extent, he can be of any size, and he has a he-man kind of body," the pastor said. "There are 330 million gods in Hinduism, so mostly people will say, 'Jesus is okay,' and they will just add one more to the 330 million. They will not hate Jesus. But my experience is that people in India are hungry for God, and once they find out who the true God is, they just follow Him with all their heart."

To learn more about Christian Aid Mission or to donate, visit their website.