Helping those who are last in line
The pressure on India’s Christians was already growing fast. Now, because of COVID-19, many are starving. Delivering aid under restrictions is difficult, but thanks to your support, Open Doors partners are risking their health and the threat of persecution to get food and help to our struggling brothers and sisters.
No Sunday service, no collection, no income, no food. That’s the problem facing many pastors and church leaders in India under COVID-19 restrictions, and their congregations are just as vulnerable. Many live hand-to-mouth and are unable to earn anything if they are unable to leave their homes. Christian families, already persecuted, are now starving.
“It’s not just one story. It’s not just four or five such stories. It’s the story of almost every family,” explains Open Doors local partner Heena*. “People do not even have money to buy food for their families. It’s really sad. Many people depend on small businesses or work as day labourers. All of them are affected, all of them don’t have food.”
Christians in India already know what it’s like to live in isolation, cut off from their family and community. But now, it means they’re cut off from their source of emergency help. Believers in India are often doubly at risk in a time of crisis because they are considered last in the line for aid.
When a crisis comes, many Christians find that their communities won’t take care of them. Government relief aid is given to village elders to distribute, who may refuse to pass it on to Christians.
With fewer people being allowed to leave their homes, you might think that Christians in India would be experiencing lower levels of violence. Yet Open Doors partners in the country are concerned that the crisis is an opportunity for Hindu extremists to target Christians further.
Open Doors partner Pastor Samuel* says, “Last week one church was being attacked. They wanted the whole community to be re-converted to Hinduism. The leader of that (Christian) community left the village. There was a big scare. He was in hiding.”
Heena says, “There have been several incidents, others who have also been attacked while in lockdown. One person was kidnapped and the others were beaten.”
This context of increasing persecution and violence in India means our partners are called to show great courage and determination in the face of danger. Your prayers are crucial to encourage and strengthen them.
The Open Doors network is well placed to provide a rapid response in times of crisis and, thanks to your support, has been able to provide food to isolated believers with no other means of help.
The challenges during lockdown have been unique. As practical problems emerge, the teams need to be agile and change their approach from week to week.
One partner tells us, “We have to find a safe place to meet persecuted Christians and provide them with necessities without letting people know. If the families are unable to come and are in desperate need, we are trying to reach them. Sometimes it takes a whole day to reach one persecuted family and we face many hurdles.”
Giving out hope
As you can imagine, much of our usual work has been interrupted or delayed during the crisis. That means Open Doors will extend our two-year campaign to enable our local church partners in India to double and even triple their impact.
So Open Doors will continue to support believers in India for as long as help is needed. It’s your support that makes this possible. And we know that it is worth it.
One partner says, “Despite the risks, when we finally meet the families we feel so much joy. Several times people cry bitterly while thanking Open Doors supporters and God for the provisions.”
Believers in India are forced to be last in line.
will you put them first?
- Pray for believers who don’t have enough money to buy the food they need
- Pray for the church to show the love of Christ and love for their neighbors in a very practical way
- Pray that the church will be salt and light during this time of panic and questioning in society
- Pray that the church will find ways to support isolated believers.