On August 23, 2008, a prominent Hindu leader was killed by a Maoist. For whatever reason, the slaying was blamed on the Christian community, and Hindu extremists began to take aim at believers. Their anger burned hot, and persecution broke out. The opposition to the Gospel over the next several years was fierce and persistent.
The Hindu leaders vowed, “We will go in hundreds and thousands and destroy the Christians.”
There was a method to their ferocity.
They would enter villages, rape the women, kill the heads of household, and burn houses to the ground. There was a reward for each preacher killed and each church building burned: 10,000 rupees.
That’s about $150.
If someone abandon their faith in Christ and wanted to come back to live in their village, they were required to prove it:
- They must drink cow urine
- They must eat cow dung
- They must pay 5,000 rupees
- They must burn their Bible
- They must kill a Christian family member and show proof of having done so
Over 5,000 families have been impacted. I met three of them. The knelt to touch my feet in one of the most humiliating acts I’ve ever endured.
The first story came from a man. He was probably about my age. He stood silently as his pastor explained his plight. His head remained slightly low. He avoided eye-contact with the room. His eyes were almost glazed with the memory. This was not a story to him. This was real life.
His father was told, “If you reject Jesus, you’ll be spared.” He held his Bible over his heart and took a stand for Christ. They beat him with rods and burned him to death. His son lives on, fatherless, standing for Christ as well.
There was a woman there as well. Two women, actually. Their pastor spoke for them briefly, then the first shared her story. Her husband was a pastor. Forty to fifty people came, killed her husband, and burned him for not rejecting his faith. She was then gang raped. Instead of shrinking back, she now takes her testimony to children and challenges them to follow Jesus no matter what.
A second woman stood with similar manner and stature. Both of them, like the man, were quick to look at the floor. It was not humiliation that caused this–they had nothing of which to be ashamed. Rather, I think it was the raw pain of re-telling this reality. Their worlds had been ripped apart because someone didn’t like it that they worshipped Jesus. This woman’s husband was brutally killed. She escaped, but watched as her husband was killed from a distance. How do you not wave an angry fist at God for being unjust? How do you not weep at the mere memory? They did weep, and our hearts broke for them.
How can we know that this exists in the world and not be moved? How can we complain about the volume of the music or the brightness of the lights or the length of the sermon ever again? How can we shrink back from a combative co-worker or shy away from an opportunity to share Christ with a neighbor? When the greatest persecution we might face is a rejected invitation, an intellectual disagreement, or being ostracized socially? I have looked into the eyes of these beautiful people–the wounded warriors who carry the cross of Christ still with no reservations. Their faith has not been weakened, it has been strengthened. Their resolve, though tested, is more refined than ever before.
The pastor of these three individuals stood on their behalf in front of me and the other Americans here this week and said something that I will never forget as long as I live:
“When we eat our breakfast and prayer our morning prayers with our children and our families and get on our motorcycles to go out and preach the Gospel each day, we all know we may not come back again. Still, we preach anyway.”
They–those who do so at the very risk of their lives–preach anyway.
Are we–those who face little to no opposition whatsoever–doing the same?