“If Not for God we would have been dead.”
‘If not for God we would have been dead’ – God’s protection and your support help Vinita survive persecution
“It is written in God’s Word, ‘When you follow me, people will persecute you,’” says Vinita*, a Christian from a Hindu background from India. Her life shows that this is true. Vinita and her young family have faced discrimination, threats, and violent attacks by Hindu extremists from their community since they decided to follow Jesus. Their persecutors say that they are following a ‘foreign god.’
But reading about persecution in John 15 doesn’t scare Vinita. She says, “From these verses we gain the strength and assurance that God is with us.” Your prayers and support have shown Vinita that she is not alone or forgotten, and you are helping her stay strong in the face of every challenge.
Vinita is in her mid-20s. She runs a small shop in her home, and her husband works in a factory. They have a baby girl, who is a year old.
Vinita came to faith through a friend from a previous job. “Initially I did not believe, but every day at lunch time she shared the gospel. Then slowly I started to grow in the Lord.”
Finding faith in Jesus made a big difference to Vinita’s life. “Before coming to the Lord I had lot of troubles and all kind of difficulties,” she says. “When I came to the Lord, I had a peace of mind that nobody else offered.”
At first, her husband wasn’t so sure about his new faith. So she prayed for him – and her prayers were answered. “He also accepted Christ and got baptized.” Her sister Isha* also came to faith after seeing the change in Vinita’s life.
She wanted to share the peace she had found in Christ with even more people, but not everyone was happy about this. “I tried to share the gospel to many, but they did not listen. They spoke badly to me saying, ‘You are worshipping a foreign God instead of our god and goddesses.’
“Our neighbor caused a lot of troubles for us. They created a mess in front of our gate by throwing garbage. They looked for reasons to fight and to create a rift between us.
“Still, we did not take any notice and ignored them. I never gave up – my job was to share the Word of God.”
‘Armed with rods’
But one day, the attacks on Vinita and her family became more extreme.
“My sister was returning back from work when my neighbors started a fight with her. She tried to escape, but they started to beat her. I went to rescue her and they hit me too.”
Not only did her neighbours physically attack Vinita and Isha – they then went to the police and accused Vinita and Isha of attacking them.
“When we went to the police station, the police did not help us because the attackers had already bribed them with money, and they are well acquainted with influential people.”
Their injuries weren’t serious, but Vinita and Isha were shaken by this attack, and worried about the false case that had been filed against them. They called their pastor, and he came with his daughter and his wife, Preetha*, to pray with them.
But when the Hindu extremists from Vinita’s community heard that a pastor had come to Vinita’s house, they decided to come and finish what they had started.
“Eight or nine men from the neighborhood barged into the house. They were armed with rods in their hands.
“For almost 30 mins they were hitting us and breaking things. They were running after me and beating me. They were stamping us with their legs.
“While they were beating me, I was holding my 6-month-old daughter in my arms. They snatched her and threw her down.
“I felt that today we would not be spared.
“My life was saved as I rushed into my neighbour’s house. They were shouting, ‘Bring her out!’ But God protected me and my life was spared. If not for God we would have been dead.”
‘We could not receive treatment’
Somehow, everyone survived the brutal attack. Most amazingly of all, Vinita’s baby girl escaped with just a few scratches on her legs.
But Vinita and the others were more seriously hurt. “My head was injured, and I have deep injuries near my hip and on my shoulders. My sister sustained serious head injuries. My pastor’s daughter was also hurt on her hands and legs. They hit our pastor’s wife.”
It was the pastor’s wife, Preetha*, who was in the most critical condition. When one of the men went to hit her with a metal rod, she lifted her hand to protect her head from the blow. She was knocked unconscious, and her hand was almost cut in half. She also had a broken leg and other internal injuries.
“Somehow, I took everyone and together we went to the hospital,” Vinita says.
“When we were admitted to the hospital we could not receive treatment, because there was pressure from the attackers.”
The extremists had already tried to kill them with fists and rods – and now they were preventing the Christians from receiving life-saving treatment.
“The pastor’s wife was very serious. I prayed for God’s quick healing upon her. I prayed, ‘Father, you alone show your power and heal us.’”
God answered Vinita’s prayers – but perhaps not in the way she expected. “Partners from Open Doors came forward to help us. They took us to another hospital and got us treated and paid our hospital expenses.”
It was your prayers and support that made this possible – and it saved Preetha’s life. “If the partners did not help, my pastor’s wife would have died.”
‘This gave me hope’
Your prayers and support are helping Open Doors local partners to continue to support Vinita after the attack on her family.
“When I went back home, I saw that they had broken all the items (in my shop). I felt dejected. I was not able to understand how I would move forward and run the shop.
“By the grace of God, partners from Open Doors gave me new items for my shop. This gave me hope that I can run my shop and earn. So I want to thank them.”
Your support is also providing legal support, to help fight the false case brought against Vinita and Isha, and to lodge a case against their attackers. “Pray that we may win the case,” Vinita asks.
On top of the persecution they have faced, Vinita and her family are also facing the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic. Your support is helping them to survive this crisis as well. “When quarantine started my husband’s and my work came to a stand still. We faced hardship as we had no money and no groceries. I used to pray, ‘O Lord, please bless us so that we can afford some food for survival.’ I also prayed for those brothers and sisters who would be suffering like us during the lockdown.
“God took care of our needs. Partners from Open Doors helped us with our daily grocery needs.”
Vinita doesn’t know what the future holds. Covid-19 may continue to affect the family’s income, and they still face threats from their community. “Even now they threaten us and say, ‘We will not let you stay here.’ They say they will drive us out of the place and makes us beg.”
But your support and prayers will enable Open Doors local partners to continue to provide Vinita and her family with the help and encouragement they need. Our local partners are also working with Vinita and her family to see if there is a safer place where they can live. She says, “To those people who have helped me, I would like to thank them for the help.”
Persecution in India
The attack on Vinita was not an isolated one. While Open Doors local partners hoped that the COVID-19 lockdowns would lead to fewer attacks on Christians, this sadly was not the case – hundreds of believers were physically attacked because of their faith last year in India. Vinita is just one of many believers who have faced violence because of their faith in Jesus.
Alongside violent attacks, many more Christians in India also experience discrimination – and this can be just as deadly. Thousands of believers were denied government food aid during the covid-19 lockdowns because of their faith, and would have starved to death without help from Open Doors local partners. Not only was Preetha, the wife of Vinita’s pastor, almost beaten death – medical professionals in a government hospital also refused to treat her, and would have let her die, simply because she is a Christian.
Pastor Samuel*, an Open Doors local partner, says, “This is something very common in India. When (the Christians) are brought to the hospital, mostly the hospital deny the medical help to those people. And the police take a lot of time in registering their cases. These people suffer a lot.”
This is why your prayers and support are so vital. You are helping to provide life-saving support, such as paying for private medical treatment for those who are attacked, and bringing vital food aid to those denied government aid. And you are providing legal training and support, so that Christians in India can seek justice when they face discrimination and violence.
Pastor Samuel says, “My dear brothers and sisters, we are all able to do what we are doing only because you are praying, because you are supporting. Thank you so much for all your prayers, all your support, everything you are doing for the persecuted church.”
‘I learn to forgive my enemies’
After everything that Vinita has been through, including having her baby girl snatched from her arms, it would be understandable if she felt hatred towards her persecutors. But she says, “When Jesus left this world, He said, ‘Father, these people do not know what they are doing. Forgive them.’ From this verse, I learn to forgive my enemies. And I pray that the attackers have a change of heart.”
When asked if she has ever thought of leaving her faith so that the persecution will end, she says, “I have never thought we will leave God, because God safeguarded us and helped us. I will never leave the Lord.”
If she met others who were going through persecution, she says she would tell them, “Hardships come when we follow God, but God helps and brings us out from difficulties. If we leave God, our situation will only get worse. Remain in Christ Jesus who sustains us and He will bless you.
“We have peace only in Christ Jesus, so do not leave Him. Peace in Christ is found nowhere else.”
Please pray for Vinita and her family. She says, “Pray for my daughter and my whole family that we may be safe. We live in fear that they might do something to us. Pray, as they still threaten us, that the threats will stop.
“Pray for us to be strong in faith, to be fearless.
“I am also thankful to God for blessing us immensely. Even in our difficult situation our Father has helped us.”