Violence in India Does Not Prevent the Spread ot the Gospel

Feb 03, 2003 01:54 PM EST

KOCHI, India - In spite of escalating violence from Hindu fanatics, conversions among the 300 million Dalits continue to rise.

Among the 23 million Christians in India, more than three forth are among the segregated and oppressed Dalits or "untouchable" tier of India's caste system. For 3,000 years, they lived in a cycle of discrimination and despair, with no hopes. However, recent Christian revivals among the untouchables bring new light to these low caste Indians.

On January 13, the representatives from the 500-plus Christian denominations working in Kerala convened for the advancement of the Gospel in the Hindi nation.

"Our rally attended by around 45 persons was held to reaffirm their faith in Jesus," said Cooper, civil engineer- turned Pentecostal bishop from New Castle, Pa.

We spoke ill of nobody. Instead we prayed for a couple of dozens of people who were ill. I was there to present my testimony. I told them how late I was in embracing Jesus and how much joy I have had since then," he continued.

Such conventions and conversions instigate violence from Hindi radicals.

"Some fanatics believe that by killing a missionary or burning a church will frighten Christians to stop their religious practice," said Kuldip Nayar, one of India's top political columnists.

After the January 13 gospel convention ended, Cooper, along with a local preacher Benson K. Sam, his wife Annie, and their three children Joy, Jeff and Judith, were attacked. Cooper's right arm was severed while Benson suffered a blow to the head.

"Joseph Cooper and the Sam family would have been killed but for their luck," John Dayal, the secretary general of All India Christian Council said.

The Indian authorities further insulted Cooper, who worked with Indian Christians for more than 25 years, by ordering his deportation.

"Indian government's expulsion orders on Cooper is in line with its support to anti-Christian forces,"

Hindu militant groups threaten to expel all foreign Christian evangelists in India.

"This attack proves that the Christian church has enemies growing in tribe. I'm sure the church will outlive all these threats," said Cooper.

In 1999, two Kerala pastors were attacked by a rightist Hindu fanatic group, Rashtriya Swayamsevakh Sangh (RSS). In the same year, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sleeping sons were burned alive in Orissa - a remote east Indian village. In the same year, a Pentecostal Church in Kerala was burned down by arsonists.

"Such incidents are spreading in the States of Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala," said Dayal.

Officials believe the continued violence is a core strategy of the militants to having ant-conversion legislation in all Indian states.

By Pauline C.