India: Faith Grows Among Persecuted Christians in Orissa

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We have been faced lately with the defection of a number of highly-placed American Christians on serious matters of faith. 

In particular, there has been a large retreat among political and intellectual Christian leadership on the question of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. They are either tossing marriage out the door altogether, or they are, as I was once counseled concerning abortion, urging the rest of us to leave our beliefs at home or inside our houses of worship. 

I’m not talking about one, specific, runner. I’m talking about a whole group of people who have grown fat off denouncing other people for not supporting the very values they are now running from themselves. Excuse me please if I won’t go along with their self-serving patter. 

But I’m not going to. 

I think they’re self-serving phonies. 

I also think that they should consider persecuted Christians around the world who are holding fast to the cross in the face of horrific suffering. 

A case in point is the persecuted Christian population of Orissa, India. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa, eastern India) says,

“Faith in Orissa is growing because of the persecution. This mission, in the face of violent persecutions, has become the focus of religious and priestly vocations.”

Consider, for a moment, what sincere Christians face in India. According to Archbishop Barwa, 

… the district of Kandhamal, where the majority of Catholics of the Archdiocese live, has faced untold persecution”. The highest point were the pogroms of 2008: “During the persecutions, there was an ethnic cleansing of all Christians in 400 villages, more than 6,000 houses, 340 churches and chapels, clinics and schools were burned and destroyed. Thousands of believers were injured, several women and girls, including a nun, were raped and about 60,000 men, women and children were left homeless”. The Bishop recalled that 75 Christians (22 Catholics, 28 Baptists, 12 Pentecostals, 5 of independent churches) and 8 non-tribal Christians were brutally murdered.

The text continues: “Five years after the persecutions, visiting the affected communities, the faithful say to the Bishop: the persecutors burned our houses, property, and killed our loved ones, but they did not manage to destroy our faith and cannot separate us from the love of Jesus Christ .We are proud to be Christians and proud of our faith”. Words and actions of this kind “are clear signs of growth in faith. They may be poor and illiterate, but rich people of faith”, he comments.
The Archbishop explains that still there is no guarantee that persecution will not be repeated: “We live trusting in God and making every effort, as individuals and communities, to build peace in Kandhamal, but we surrender to God and say: Let there be your will”.

He goes on to describe what I believe is beginning to happen here in the “Christian” West when he says, “Each growth is a process that requires pruning, trials and suffering.”

The devil is collecting the low-hanging fruit with the runners who are running away from traditional marriage in America today. These folks don’t need persecution to make them tuck tail and skeedaddle. If you stop and think about it, they’ve never really talked about following Jesus. Their focus for decades has been on denouncing other people. They haven’t urged us to live by our faith or even to bring people to Christ. Their entire focus has been on manipulating us into believing that being a Christian was summarized by how we vote.

The purpose of all this wasn’t our souls or the conversion of our culture. It was their power.

All they needed to switch horses on these issues they were pushing in lieu of actual Christianity was for the manipulations to stop delivering enough votes to give them the power. They are switching — and trying to get us to switch along with them — on 2,000 years of Christian teachings because denouncing people over those teachings has stopped being profitable. The minute they see the money is leaving the fight, they leave the fight right behind it. 

Christianity is growing in India because the Christians there are following Christ. 

Cowardice and Christianity don’t mix. Opportunism and political manipulations don’t mix with Christianity, either.

They never have.

Christianity was so ascendent here in the West that its popularity covered for the manipulators and cowards in our midst. But things are changing. Faithfully following Jesus is beginning to be a career breaker, rather than a career maker. 

We shouldn’t be surprised when people who were only pretending to follow Jesus in the first place fall away under these circumstances. It is inevitable. 

I am humbled by the persecuted Christians in our world today, those in Orissa among them. I know that God holds them close, because I know that none of us has the courage to stand toe to toe with satan incarnate and not run unless the Holy Spirit is empowering them. 

We need to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in every way we can, including by praying for them every single day. I hope they in turn will pray for us.

Because their prayers avail much. 

Because they walk with God. 

 

The link to this article is courtesy of reader Fabio. 

Is There Christian Persecution in India?

Persecution is an ugly word. According to my online dictionary, it means “hostility or maltreatment, esp because of race or political or religious beliefs.”

That sounds simple enough. But, as usual, when you add politics and questions of power to the discussion, simplicity flies away. Political definitions, especially when they are trying to obscure reality, quickly become something too complicated for ordinary mortals to either understand or take action against.

Persecution, in the hands of politicians, becomes a tiny target that almost no one except the few that the politicians have decided (usually for reasons other than the persecution itself) they want to help. The reason for this is that slippery words like persecution are problems for politicians who hold the responsibility for nations and organizations in their hands.

If the definition of persecution is too easy, then they will find themselves faced with a moral responsibility to act, and actions from political units always mean committing the resources, and sometimes the lives, of their citizenry. Any good government takes care of its own people first. No head of state, either secular or religious, wants his or her options for governance directed by open-ended definitions of words like “persecution.”

This isn’t hubris. It’s necessity. Heads of state have been entrusted with the lives and well-being of their citizens. They cannot commit them wily-nily to the righting of every wrong there is. In the first place, righting every wrong is a practical impossibility. There too many wrongs for any one entity to right, even if that entity is a government. Also,  evil and cruelty are hydra-headed. Chop off one evil and two more grow in its place.

Governments are very careful about what they chose to call persecution because persecution is a loaded word that demands a morale response and moral responses lead to demands for action. Actions by government, any government, are big moves that result in endless ripples of effect that can not be either controlled or predicted.

Governments shy away from easy access to their power through words like “persecution.” They create nuances and artificial qualifications in their definitions of the word that force almost all the people who suffer real-life persecution, sometimes even to the death, outside of its meaning.

In this way, they can excuse themselves from becoming ensnared in demands for action against the hydra-headed monster of persecution of innocent people that flares continuously around the globe.

What becomes problematic in this is that they also can try to stop the rest of us from acknowledging the truth of what’s happening, as well. A lot of governments are more afraid of their own people than anything else. The more oppressive a government is, the more this is true.

They do not want their citizens going off and naming persecution as what it is because they fear what might happen if this catches on in the popular imagination. They are afraid of having to act and they fear that people who call things for what they are might involve enough other citizens in their concerns that the demands for action will get out of hand.

This critical balance between necessary government conservatism about committing itself and its citizens to causes, fights, wars and troubles that are not its own, and the clear-cut facts of merciless situations leads to almost laughable twisting and turning of language. People use the tools at their disposal, and government has legal definitions of things at its disposal.

Government can create any definition of any thing that it wants. It can call the mass murder of millions a “final solution.” It can define medical murder as “death with dignity.” It can write definitions with such pinpoint specificity that no one except those it wants to let in will fall under those definitions.

I believe that is what has happened to the word “persecution.” So many people are suffering and dying all around the globe that no government, no entity, can hope to respond to it. If any one government tries, it will end up exhausting its resources and accomplishing nothing.

This is not evil. It is necessity. It is responsible care-taking of the people whose lives are in a specific government’s hands.

However, that does not oblige you and me to go along with these pin-point definitions of persecution which defy common sense and rational thought. We are free to look at reality as it is, without the varnish of legalese. We do not have to accede our personal vision to the blinders that government wears. We can look at things as they are.

Is there Christian persecution in India? Unless a lot of sources from a lot of places are all colluding in a massive confabulation, the answer is yes.

Here are two videos I found on YouTube. The second one is an actual video of an attack on Christians which resulted in their deaths. So be warned, it’s hard to watch and not for everyone, especially children.

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Christian Persecution: From the Dali Lama to Great Britain, Six Quick Takes

This week’s six quick takes include examples of the increasing hostility toward Christians and Christianity worldwide.

They range from government punishment of Christian business owners for practicing their faith in Great Britain, to the rise of government harassments and arrests of Christian religious leaders in Eastern Europe. Also included are remarks by the Dali Lama that seem to blame the victims of violence for their own persecution. He specifically pointed to the martyrdom of a Christian missionary in India in which the missionary and his two children were burnt alive as his example.

Please pray for an end to Christian persecution.

1. Open Doors has released is annual World Watch List.  This list details the persecution of Christians around the globe. You can read it here.

2. Great Britain: Christian Bed and Breakfast Punished for ‘Discriminating’ Against Gays   In a victory for the gay agenda, the Christian owners of a Cornish bed and breakfast lost their appeal against last year’s ruling that their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against a gay couple.

But, while upholding that ruling, the Court of Appeal warned that a new intolerance should not take root against Christians because of their beliefs about sexual ethics. (Read more here.)

3. Eastern Europe: Persecution on the Rise for Christians in Eastern Europe  Citizens of the former Soviet Union are facing growing restrictions on their religious freedom. On Wednesday a panel of experts in Washington reported that governments are closing more churches, fining and arresting their religious leaders, and destroying church literature.

“Twenty years ago when the Soviet Union fell apart, collapsed, when the Berlin Wall fell, everybody was sort of excited about all the future possibilities. Twenty years later we are again talking about freedom. What happened?” Victor Ham, vice president for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association Crusades, said.

The situation might not be a return to the Soviet era, but the signs spell trouble.

“Churches are being torched, crosses are being burned. There’s a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of negative things appearing in the press about different organizations. So there’s some reason for concern,” Lauren Homer, with Homer International Law Group, said.

The atmosphere is thick with intolerance in these countries. Individual pastors are reluctant to speak out against abuses and restrictions. (Read more here.)

Note: Taiwan is a separate country from China.

4. China: Christian Persecution in China Rises Over 40 Percent in 2012  ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian non-profit organization that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report on Monday that the Chinese government continues its uptick of persecution against Christians in the country for the seventh consecutive year.

The report examines 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, finding that persecution incidences rose 41.9 percent from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the group’s finding.

Read more at http://global.christianpost.com/news/christian-persecution-in-china-rises-over-40-percent-in-2012-chinaaid-reports-89542/#bq7CyE4Zal8lCCcf.99

5. North Korea: Most Difficult Place on Earth to be a Christian  For the eleventh year running, this is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian. One of the remaining Communist states, it is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind. Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution. There is a system of labor camps including the renowned prison No. 15, which reportedly houses 6,000 persecuted Christians alone. Despite the severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christians. (Read more here.)

6. Dalai Lama’s Statements Against Conversion May Increase Christian Persecution  Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, said he was against conversions and changing from one religion to another. His position is likely to be seen as support for the policies of the radical Hindu groups and the anti-conversion laws that exist in some Indian states.

During recent speech, he touched on the issue of conversions. “I do not like conversions,” he said, because they have a negative impact [on society]. “The two parties, that of the converted and the community abandoned by him, begin to fight.”

As an example of the negative influence produced by conversions, he cited the violence against the Australian missionary Graham Staines, burnt alive in his car with his two sons, and the violence and destruction still ongoing in Orissa and Karnataka.

This is not the first time that the Dalai Lama has spoken against conversions. Last November, at Christ University in Bangalore, he repeated a similar concept: on the one hand, he spoke of religious freedom and on the other of the need to avoid conversions: “Any religion – he said – should be limited to service-oriented interventions, such as providing people education and health care, not indulging in conversions.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who personally knows the Dalai Lama, comments to AsiaNews that the freedom to change religion is a fundamental human right and can not be obscured for any convenience. (Read more here.)

 

Human Trafficking and Child Labor: Raid of Indian Sweatshop Frees Slaves as Young as 8

The following Yahoo News article describes a raid on a sweatshop in India where enslaved children, some as young as 8 years, were forced to make Christmas decorations.

Many of these decorations are being sold on eBay. Read the excerpt of the Yahoo News article below for tips on how to avoid buying them yourself. Watch the video on the link at the end of the excerpt for more information.

Police and child advocates broke padlocks and busted down doors in a surprise raid of a sweatshop in India, only to find a group of children imprisoned who had been forced to make Christmas decorations.

The children were kept in rooms approximately six feet by six feet and had been forced to work up to 19-hour days making the decorations, which advocates believe may have been intended to be sold on the cheap in the United States.

Human rights group Global March for Children led the raid, but also got help from former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who now serves as the United Nations special envoy for global education.

The 14 children who were freed are now in the process of being reunited with their families, who are scattered across India.

Brown released video to ABC News and Yahoo! News revealing what he says were the illegal conditions in which the children in Delhi were discovered.

“There is no parent in the world who would ever want their child to be subjected to conditions that you see in these films of children in dingy basements, without air, without food, without proper care, being forced into child labor for all these hours of the day. I think every parent who sees these films will want this practice brought to an end as quickly as possible.”

Child advocates say American consumers would likely never know the origin of goods made with child labor, which Brown says has become a global epidemic that needs to be solved.

In a push to garner more attention on the issue worldwide, Brown’s office released a new report today, “Child Labour and Educational Disadvantage – Breaking the Link, Building Opportunity,” which says 91 million children in the global workforce are younger than 12 years old.

In the case of the children rescued in Delhi, he says they were both injured and scared.

“Some of them are lacerated because they’re working with glass. And we found these children in this basement. They were not being paid,” he said. “They had been trafficked themselves. And they were making these Christmas decorations that were being sold in our shops and our web sites in the West.”

Priyanke Ribhu of Global March says many children in India are often lured away from their parents by gangmasters who befriend their parents in the remote villages where they live. The gangmasters reportedly promise parents their kids will be taken to a better place where they will be provided a real education and many great
opportunities they could not receive in their villages. Parents are also often told the children will be able to send money back home to help their families.

Far too often, Ribhu says, the children simply end up locked away behind padlocks only to work 17-,18-, even 19-hour days with no one to help them. Ribhu says holiday decorations similar to those discovered in the recent raid can be found on eBay and in other marketplaces online or in stores.

In addition, she says, the items are often sold off into a sophisticated network of suppliers that make it nearly impossible for retailers or consumers to know whether the goods they are purchasing have been made by child labor.

Ribhu warns, however, there are some tell-tale warning signs American consumers can be on the lookout for if they wish to avoid purchasing products made with child labor. First, she says, if the holiday decorations you are purchasing are not labeled with the country they are made in you might want to be concerned. Next, she says if they have an unusually low price and are marked as “hand made” it is another red flag.

Ribhu also warns to be cautious when examining “hand made” items that are also marked as being made in India.

While child labor was largely outlawed in the United States following the industrial revolution more than 100 years ago, Brown told ABC News and Yahoo! News that India has yet to ban child labor itself. He says currently, the country only has a ban on hazardous working conditions, but he wants to pressure the government to immediately take action to protect children there. (To see a video and read more of this Yahoo News story, go here.)

Christian Workers Save Trafficked Girls in India

Christianity in India is growing most rapidly among the Dalits, or the so-called Untouchables. 

Even though caste discrimination is illegal in India, Dalits are, according to a July CNA article, still viewed as “impure and essentially worthless.” Dalit women suffer the worst, since they are discriminated against both as Untouchables and also for being women. Dalit girls are often victims of prostitution and human trafficking.

The radical message of Christianity that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God has the power to transform people who have been treated like human garbage all their lives. According to the article, it is doing that now among the Untouchables of India.

The CNA article describing one Christian mission to Dalit girls says in part:

Bangalore, India, Jul 12, 2012 / 04:07 am (CNA).- A human rights group in India says Christianity has brought slow but lasting change to the country’s Dalits or “untouchables,” especially for the community’s women who are often victims of prostitution and human trafficking.

“The Dalits are told that they are less than animals and we tell them they are not,” non-profit director Jeevaline Kumar told CNA, “because they are made in the likeness of God.”

Kumar – who heads up Operation Mobilisation’s Anti-Human Trafficking Project in Bangalore, Karnataka – explained that the simple message that every person created in God’s image has transformed the lives of India’s Dalits.

“They are crying out for a change now that they know they can live differently,” she said.

At roughly 250 million people, Dalits make up close to one quarter of the country’s 1.2 billion member population but, according to the caste system, are seen as inherently impure and worthless.

“It is not normal in our world for how these people are treated,” Kumar said.

Although caste discrimination, not the caste system itself, was technically outlawed in 1950 after India won its independence from Great Britain, law enforcement is still lacking.

Dalit women bear the brunt of caste discrimination, Kumar added, since women are looked upon even more unfavorably in Indian culture as they will need to be married off at the expense of their parents.

“The women are the Dalits of the Dalits,” Kumar said, explaining that many of them are forced into lives of prostitution, cleaning human waste or being aborted as soon as their gender is learned.

Prostitution, either in a brothel or as a temple “devadasi,” is among one of the greatest risks that threaten Dalit girls and women.

Even though the caste system teaches that they are impure, Kumar said that “when it comes to sex, no one thinks of them as untouchable.”

Three million people in India are forced into lives of sex-trafficking, 1.2 million of whom are children and 250,000 of whom are enslaved for “ritualized temple prostitution,”According to the Dalit Freedom Network.

“A little help can change the lives of these girls,” she said.

Her organization, which is just “one of many that works towards the same goal,” is striving to promote the message that “there is value in every human being” by responding to “Jesus’ mandate” to “love thy neighbor.”

Her work with the Tarika Institute, a school that trains women who have rescued from prostitution in tailoring, spoken English and computer skills, has been especially inspiring, she said.

“I have known God like never before after I got involved in acts of justice,” she said. “It really brings meaning and fulfillment in anyone’s life.” (Read more here.)

Miracle Story: Sometimes You Don’t Have to Ask

I almost decided not to post this particular miracle story. It is so incredible that just by sharing it I open myself up to charges of being naive and soft-headed.

I finally decided to go ahead because I don’t think God intended for it to be kept a secret. It is the story of God’s direct intervention in the life of one of the least of these. I wish I could tell the whole story; of the rescue and tremendous experience the girl who tells this has gone through. But I can’t.

When you spend time with those who were the most completely lost, you find the most intense faith.

This miracle happened to a victim of sex trafficking from India.

The young woman who tells it was taken as she was walking to school when she was around 7 and put in a brothel. She suffered terrible things which I will not go into here. She was confined in a tiny room and forced to have sex with many men each day. Her life was mostly that room and her tormentors. She had never heard of Jesus Christ in her young life.

She was alone in the room at one point, and she said that she saw a spot of glowing light in front of her. Then, she saw a man in the light who told her “I am Jesus and I will take care of you.” She did not know who this Jesus was, but she did understand that she was in the presence of God. In the face of every objective criteria to the contrary she believed Him when He said “I will take care of you.” Through a series of incredible events, she ended up here in Oklahoma, free from her captors, and living a new life.

When she talks about this experience, her face glows. Her life, even more than her words, are a testimony to the redemptive power of God’s love. She is going to school, and plans to be a missionary to the trafficked girls in her native India.

Jesus went into a brothel, into the pit of one of our worst man-made hells, and reached out to this young girl. She didn’t pray. She didn’t ask for Him to come to her. She didn’t know Who He was.

It’s an incredible story and I offer you no proof. Believe it or don’t. All I can say is that those who know this young woman believe it. They see the proof in her life and rock-solid faith; in her unwavering purpose to bring Jesus to everyone she meets. She was rescued to be a rescuer.


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