Upcoming India elections stir fear, prayer

Narendra Modi addressing crowd.  (Image taken from Narendra Modi's personal feed on Flickr)

Narendra Modi addressing crowd.
(Image taken from Narendra Modi’s personal feed on Flickr)

India (MNN) — India elections are a month-long call to prayer for believers in the West. From Monday April 7 to May 12, over 814 million people will cast their ballots for a new Prime Minister and Cabinet. CH Dyer of Bright Hope International says it’s a chance for the international Church to stand with their brothers and sisters in Christ in India.

“We think this is an interesting time to be involved in India, and we see God just leading more and more people to Himself, even in the face of the persecution,” says Dyer.

“If it increases, we believe the Church will continue to grow.”

One of the candidates running for Prime Minister has India’s Christians on-edge.

“There is deep concern over this election because of the strength of this candidate, and the party he represents,” Dyer explains.

Narendra Modi represents the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a nationalist group that advocates hindutva. Hindutva is an ideology that defines culture in terms of Hindu values; in other words, “To be Indian is to be Hindu.”

Religious minorities regard both Modi and the BJP as significant threats.

“The record of Mr. Modi and of his party is terrible as far as religious minorities–especially Christians and Muslims–are concerned,” a prominent Christian activist recently told Morning Star News.

In 2002, a year after Modi took office as the state’s chief minister, widespread anti-Muslim violence broke out in Gujarat. Following a controversial train fire in February, Modi claimed “terrorists” had initiated the disaster. Hindu mobs targeted shrines and mosques, and perpetrated unspeakable acts of violence against Muslim women and children.

A Christian girl who was bruised and burnt during the Orissa violence in August 2008. This girl was injured with burns bruises during anti Christian violence by Hindu nationalists. It occured when a bomb was thrown into her house by extremists. (Image, caption courtesy All India Christian Council)

A Christian girl who was bruised and burnt
during the Orissa violence in August 2008.
This girl was injured with burns bruises during
anti-Christian violence by Hindu nationalists.
It occurred when a bomb was thrown into
her house by extremists.
(Image, caption courtesy All India Christian Council)

Speaking about the massacre in her book, India Divided, author Vandana Shiva writes, “Young boys have been taught to burn, rape, and kill in the name of Hindutva.”

Six years later, the BJP turned a blind eye to anti-Christian violence in Orissa state. On August 23, 2008, a well-known Hindu swami was assassinated by Maoists, but Christians were blamed for the attack. In the following months, thousands of believers were viciously attacked while homes and churches were burnt to the ground.

Modern India’s concerns
Despite these blatant instances of radical Hinduism, India’s voters are holding Modi and the BJP up as beacons of hope. According to a Pew study released at the end of February, people prefer BJP three-to-one over the Congress party, which has ruled India for the past decade.

In addition, some 150 million people will be heading to the polls for the first time this spring. A recent article by The Guardian’s Swapan Dasgupta suggests economic betterment for India is at the forefront of young voters’ minds.

“The Modi of 2014 epitomizes the quest for material betterment,” pens Dasgupta. “For an India that seeks to blend good economics with global relevance, the strongman Modi is the answer. Opinion polls suggest a wide personal endorsement of Modi among 18- to 35-year-old voters.”

Another issue high on the list for India’s voters, especially in Delhi, is women’s rights. Following the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old college student, India took steps to reduce the amount of violent attacks against women. A year ago, India passed a new law criminalizing stalking, voyeurism, and acid attacks.

Bright Hope believes that equipping the local, in-country church is the critical element needed to combat human trafficking in India. (Image, caption courtesy Bright Hope)

Bright Hope believes that equipping the local, in-country church is the critical element needed to combat
human trafficking in India.
(Image, caption courtesy Bright Hope)

The prevalence of women’s rights is resulting in positive side effects for Bright Hope’s Anti-Human Trafficking program.

“It’s given us an opportunity to see our partnerships, which are churches…increase their relationships and have better relationships with police and with government officials,” Dyer notes.  “[But] if there is a regime change, how will those relationships protect, or maybe even be turned against, the churches?

“Only the Lord knows what will happen, but I would venture to say that the relationships–relationships that have been built over the anti-human trafficking agenda–might act as somewhat of a protector for some of the churches.”

Put a reminder on your phone to pray for the Church in India.

“I think it’s as simple as taking one minute, right now, and asking God: ‘Lord, protect our brothers and sisters in Christ. Give them a government that will allow them freedom to share Your name,'” prays Dyer.

Learn more about Bright Hope’s work in India here.