NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
If there was ever a place where Paul’s words apply—“exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles” (Romans 1:23 RSV)—it is in India, with its over 1.3 billion people. Down through the years, Hinduism in India has acted as an amorphous cloud that hovers over the country and absorbs all into itself. The ancient native village gods, too, were absorbed into the Hinduism we see today. They worship literally thousands of gods. For instance, you can find a black rat god. There are even Hindus who claim Jesus as a “god” to them personally, but only as one god among many others, including Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, and so forth. Of course, our Lord is THE Immortal God. There are no others. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Today in India, the people with whom we are in fellowship believe and teach this truth. Because they do, there is persecution, both open and behind the scenes. What follows is adapted from a report by one of our brethren in India. Names and places are withheld for obvious reasons.
I herewith submit this on the persecution of our pastors.
When India became independent, the constituent assembly adopted a constitution which declared India to be a secular state. The danger began when Hinduism became associated with political power. Hindu nationalists began to win political leadership in the previously secular government. They played on Hindu sentiments to stay in power. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for example, is a paramilitary Hindu nationalist group that has been involved in widespread persecution of non-Hindus, including Christians. It and various other Hindu political groups, as well as the national Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are opposed to our church activities. For example, a local member of the state legislative assembly opposed one of our pastors in his church building construction work and had him beaten several times. Pastors have faced false court cases against them. Many pastors have been threatened. There has been opposition to our Jesus film project and the work of our Gospel team. One pastor’s daughter was attacked and raped by Hindu revivalists.
This persecution has not yet ended. And yet Christian love has no limits, and we show our Christ’s love to them by praying for them and for their repentance. One man, Jesus Christ, died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Once, when we were seeking fellowship with a Lutheran pastor and his congregation, the man asked that I not come in person, as it would draw down persecution on him. Instead, we had several of our local pastors visit him, and they pursued doctrinal discussions with him.
The animal gods are out in force. On the way to one of our meetings I saw a forty-foot statue of Hanuman, the monkey god. A big festival is held each year for Ganesh, the elephant god. Statues of Ganesh are sold and then taken to the river or sea to be sent out into the water and sunk. The statues dissolve in the water like papier-mâché.
Among those resembling mortal man are Shiva, the destroyer god; Vishnu, the creator god; and Krishna, who is often portrayed as a little blue boy playing a flute. Perhaps if I were not a Christian, I’d pick for my favorite god Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. A lot of people look to her for you-know-what. Once, when I was eating at a restaurant, I saw a calendar on the wall with Lakshmi portrayed on it. She was riding a tiger. That seems appropriate, for with her you certainly have a tiger by the tail! And she always gets her way, what with her many arms! This would all be comical, were it not that the false religion of Hinduism holds literally millions and millions of people in its dark grip.
By contrast, what a great joy it is for us to know that we have a part in proclaiming the Gospel in India through our brethren there. Our men do not hesitate to go into strong RSS areas to speak the Word of God. And God has continued to use them, and us, to proclaim the Good News in India, the CLC’s largest and second-oldest mission field.
Pray “that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1 RSV)
David Koenig has served as a foreign missionary in Africa, India, and elsewhere. Though officially retired, he continues to be active in the synod’s mission endeavors.