India, a predominantly Hindu nation, sees a rise and growth of megachurches with members “from all walks of life,” according to a report.
From farmers to urban dwellers and almost everywhere in between, Christians in India are packing churches to the thousands. According to a report from Christianity Today, there are approximately 25 to 60 million Christians in the country, most of whom are Catholics, while about 1 billion Indians are Hindus.
The growth has been surprising. In a farming community in Rajasthan, for example, a congregation of 2,000 attends the service every Sunday. In some cases, family members have to take turns going to the service so that someone is left behind to take care of the farm animals.
The church is pastored by Bhagwana Lal, who hails from the tribal group considered to be below the Dalits, India’s lowest caste and society’s outcasts.
Another church in the city of Hyderabad, which can fit 35,000 people, gets packed during each one of its five services every Sunday. Calvary Temple is dubbed as the “largest church in India.” It is pastored by Satish Kumar.
“Many Americans think nothing is happening among Christians in India,” said Kumar, referring to Christians outside of his country. “We have to change that opinion.”
In August, the Evangelical Fellowship of India released a report documenting an increase in cases of persecution among Christians for the first half of 2016. The report identifies “134 separate incidents of violence” within the first six months of the year.
The number was quite high compared to those of 2014 (147 cases) and 2015 (177 cases) considering it was only for the first half of the year.
The report associated the surge in violence among Christians to the “ominous and all-permeating impunity” of the authorities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, particularly in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the three states with the most incidents of hate crimes.
India is listed as number 17 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where Christians are most persecuted. Open Doors describes the persecution level in the country as “severe” and, like the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said the level of impunity for Hindu extremists has increased.
However, while the world may be viewing religious persecution as the top challenge among Christian churches in India, their church leaders identified a challenge bigger than that: training more pastors in order to accommodate church growth.