As an Adventist and as one who has been in the faith since I was a child, I am constantly asked, What is the use of all these denominations? With 30,000 shades of the faith, I am reminded that Christianity is not that simple a faith to be understood.
It is when I began my current podcast Chasing Hope that I was gifted with an opportunity, one that I was to use for the advancement of the community. The Christians have been internally divided for far too long and this burning need to find a way to bring the followers of Christ together in the right way, where we agree to disagree and yet stay focussed on Christ and Christ alone, has kept me active in the Faith.
It is around this time that I had the good fortune to meet a Christian and member of the clergy, who while on the other end of the religious spectrum, was speaking and thinking exactly what I had in mind but was unable to share. Suddenly I realised that in every conversation I was learning more about the Persecution of the Christians from different communities.
It is this internal division that has led non-Christians to think that after Graham Staines, these incidents are stray incidents, unrelated and must not be thought of as acts of violence against one community. It is with this in mind that I conducted an interview with Father Cedric to find out the truth behind these mindless acts of persecution.
It was at this time that in the course of this conversation that I learned that the attack on the nuns from Kerala to the north was not just another mindless attack, it was well calculated. Imagine a strong force of 150 lying in wait to hijack a train travel of four innocent women, with two of them falsely accused of converting the other two to the faith. And it is around this time that another Christian pastor was attacked. His fault? The fact that he was conducting the service not in a church but in a prayer hall. What a transgression!
The idea of Conversion of Christians has been a burning issue in India. In India, the unfortunate reality for the past couple of years, according to Father Cedric, is that the community has witnessed the blatant violation of Article 25 which is part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution of India. This Article directly ensures the freedom to practise, preach and propagate the religion that they believe in.
It is at this time that every Christian in India must ask the crucial question, Am I safe?
The Bible talks extensively about Persecution. In Matthew 5:10, we read, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Further in 2 Corinthians 12:10, we read, Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Jesus talks about the infirmities and weakness of humans but He also talks of the overcoming of it. In the same way He talks about being persecuted for His sake, but does that mean that we lie low and think of it as just something we must accept.
It has been reported, “Persecution against Christians in India rose by over 40 percent in the first half of 2020, despite a three-month, nationwide lockdown in the country.”
It has been reported further bu international organisations that 293 incidents of anti-Christian persecution in the first six months of the year.Six cases involved murder. Two women were raped and killed for their faith, and another two women and a 10-year-old girl were raped for refusing to renounce their faith in Christianity.
Uttar Pradesh, it has been stated, “remained the most hostile state against Christians in India,” noted the report. Sixty-three hate crimes were reported there.
Police threatened one pastor with jail not just for him but for his family too. In the conversation with Father Cedric, he too recounted how he has been jailed and beaten and seen the other side of the justice system, including his offices being vandalised. This is the state of the Christians that has gone unseen and unheard. The media too has failed to give these instances the kind of attention it deserves.
It is in this context that it is imperative for Christians to re-think their stand on being denominational-loyal, or God-centric. The centre of our Faith is Jesus and Jesus alone, the cornerstone, our Bible. Anything outside of it is an issue. When a Christian turns away from God, he cannot be an asset to the faith. Similarly, when a Christian decides he must indulge in unnecessary divisions that hurts the brotherhood of man, one must ask, is this necessary? Is it kind?
We as Christians must never forget what the Bible says in Matthew 25:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
This is just a reminder that God wants us to stand up for our brothers and sisters. We must cling to the need for Justice and we must stand up against any and all forms of injustice and division. For this to happen we must appeal to the heart of humanity. Without the Christians in India being united, it is obvious that God will not be on Our Side.
We have to stand together, protect one another until we can eliminate the dark forces of divisiveness and hatred.
God wants to engage with us. God is our Hope. The only way the Hope of our lives will stay alive is for us to keep an open mind, be aware and work as one Community who is only Christ-focussed.