Trouble has been brewing for some time in India.
India, the world's largest democracy, is also home to some of the fiercest sectarian religious violence in recent years. Christians have been killed, their homes burned to the ground; they've been beaten, their daughters raped, their belongings confiscated. While government officials condemn the violence, they rarely lift a finger to end it or bring to justice the perpetrators.
For years violence against Christians, committed with impunity, has largely centered in the Andhra Pradesh province. Violence is now spilling over into relatively quiet provinces where hate crimes against Christians were sporadic and infrequent. The Pew Research Center's 2014 report lists India as one of five nations with the highest degree of social hostility towards Christians (http://www.pewforum.org/2014/01/14/religious-hostilities-reach-six-year-...).
Why this sudden uptick in violent persecution of Christians?
Fomenting for over a decade zealot Hindu's, many in high government positions, have been pushing for a "reconversion" of Christians back to Hinduism according an article appearing in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/24/world/asia/india-narendra-modi-hindu-c...). Under the garb of patriotism the intentional agenda by politicians, as well as Hindu religious leaders, is to define being "Indian", and therefore a true "patriot" as being fundamentally Hindu, and only Hindu. Recent legislation introduced in India's Parliament calls for the Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, to be made the national scriptures of India and for December 25th, Christmas Day, to now be designated "Good Governance Day", symbolically removing all vestiges of Christianity from public discourse or awareness.
Since last May (2014) when India's current Prime Minister was sworn into office, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu militant organization has launched a "reconversion" campaign aimed squarely at having Christians recant their faith, renounce Christ as Lord, and return to their "roots". Threats, coercion, beatings, vandalism, and church burnings are part of the RSS's tools of persuasion. So is the offering of a "bounty" or reward for conversion - $3,200 for a Christian.
Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, has his roots in this radical right wing organization; it's where he developed his political ideologies that will determine his government policies, India's political and economical future, and how religious freedoms are protected or not.
The picture doesn’t look promising.
The 64-year-old Prime Minister has a troubling history of religious intolerance, as reported by Annie Gowen of the Washington Post in a December 18th, 2014 article entitled "Christian enclave in India fears violence as Hindus press for conversions". The article points out that in "2005, while he was chief minister in the state of Gujarat, the United States revoked Modi's U.S. visa on the grounds that he had committed 'severe violations of religious freedom'"(http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/christian-enclave-in-in...).
Given Modi's track record and the existence of state level "anti-conversion" laws Western missionaries working in India have reason to fear. Hindus and Muslims often use such "anti-conversion" laws to harass, punish, intimidate, and bring criminal proceeding against Christians and missionaries actively sharing the gospel.
Tipping the scales, ultra right wing Hindu activist groups aligned with the RSS have a particular loathing for Western missionaries involved in humanitarian programs. They see these charitable works as a cloaking device for proselytizing, especially members of India's lower castes. Christian missionaries from the West, involved in these types of missionary work, are experiencing increasing resistance from Hindu activists in the form of mass protests, threats, intimidation, and violence. If these trends continue how long will it be before Western missionaries pull out? And what happens to their work when Western money no longer flows freely to these programs? Surprisingly, this same level of acrimony is not displayed towards local humanitarian programs run and funded by local church, pastors, or indigenous missionaries.
So what does this mean for the future of missions among the world's second largest population?
As followers of Jesus, we do not despair in setbacks; obstacles are simply impediments to be overcome through prayer, inventiveness, and innovation. God will not let the doors of missions close on India's lost, but it may mean Western believers and churches will need to find new innovative ways to carry out the Great Commission.
With this changing landscape in which missions must be done it only makes sense for Christians in the West to broaden their perceptions regarding missions and how it can be done to include financially supporting indigenous missionaries in regions where Western missionaries no longer are welcome.
But it's equally important for us in the West to look for more efficient ways to fund overseas missions programs and projects so that these are not solely dependent upon foreign funding.
One of those more efficient ways is providing the"seed" money for new Micro-development projects in foreign lands. Micro-development projects not only provide a meaningful way to effectively address poverty, but once profitable provide additional funds, locally generated, that can be poured back into local Christian humanitarian programs and missions activities.
Feeling the pulse of these missional changes Crossroads has established 4 Micro-development projects in India alone. Each project is turning a profit while addressing poverty in an effective and meaningful way.
Take our Beekeeping Project for example which last year provided 120 subsistent farmers with much needed financial resources for their families. More than addressing poverty for these 120 farmers this project raised over $1,700 which was poured into a variety of missions programs such as our Alpha Care Educational Program. The Alpha Care Program provides 33 slum dwelling children from Hindu and Muslim families daily meals, clothing, an education, and the gospel message of salvation. American donors provided the startup funds for the Beekeeping Project but it quickly became profitable and is now generating local funding for the missions activities of our Crossroads, Nagaland base. Future profits are slated to be used to expand Crossroads missions work into Myanmar where we will work with two indigenous missionaries in church planting and the establishment of an additional beekeeping project to fund their missions work.
Looking to the future of missions and your participation I'd like to challenge you as a follower of Christ to broaden your perspective on how missions will be done as this 21st century unfolds.
Consider for a moment the impact your financial support would have on the life and gospel work of an indigenous missionary serving with Crossroads International. Crossroads has two indigenous missionaries who have been serving Christ for many years now. They are in desperate need of your support! Their work as missionaries is critical to the advancement of the gospel and God's purposes in India and Pakistan. Each man has pioneered the missionary work of Crossroads in their respective countries with very little financial support and no foreign missionary help. You can change that.
Take a look at the bio's on each indigenous missionary below. Prayerfully select one of these devoted servants of God to support with your finances and prayers.
Consider too how your "investment" into a Micro-development Project will create a sustainable income stream for the future funding of missionary activities and programs long after Western funds have dried up. Investing in a new Micro-development Project is "paying it forward" for the advancement of missions long after you have parted this earth.
We all have only one life to live...make it count by investing in others for the gospel's sake.
Kent & Jeanne Kelley
Serving with Crossroads International
PO Box 814
Lafayette, CO 80026-0814
P.S. Checks should be made out to Crossroads International, marked as designated for(name of missionary), and sent to the Crossroads office. Giving can also be done online at www.crossroadsinternational.org.
Name: Olem & Senti Jamir and baby Jonty
Serves As: Director of Crossroads, Nagaland
Focus of Ministry: Church Planting, Youth Evangelism, Ministry to Slum Children
Current Missions Programs:
· Church Planting: pastors the new church plant started Nov. 2014 in Nagaland, India’s second largest city, Dimapur targeting young families, musicians, University students, and young entrepreneurs.
· Micro-development Projects: oversight of 4 Micro-development Projects aimed at addressing poverty and creating local income streams for indigenous missionary activities. Currently 123+ poverty stricken individuals and subsistent farmers benefit from these Projects and over $2,900 in profits poured back into local missionary activities carried out by indigenous missionaries.
· Alpha Care Education Program: both humanitarian and missional in nature this program daily feeds, clothes, educates, and provides spiritual instruction in the Christian faith to 44 slums dwelling children. Senti, with a University degree in Early Childhood Education coordinates this program.
Need: monthly missionary support of $1,000.00
Name: Latif Ashur
Serves As: Director of Crossroads, Pakistan
Focus of Ministry: Hosts Believers Bible Studies, House Church Planting, Humanitarian Aid Projects, End Human Sex Trafficking of Children
Current Missions Programs:
· Food Program for orphans and street Children. This program serves currently 30 children.
· Student Bank Project: volunteers solicit donations of used books and unused school supplies for destitute children who cannot afford school supplies. Crossroads staff then distributes these donated items to the poor.
· Sunday School Outreach Program for slum children.
· Freedom Project: rescuing children sold as indentured slaves from inhumane abuse and sex trafficking. Crossroads, Pakistan efforts have rescued 38 children.
Need: monthly missionary support of $400.00