In photo: Abishek*, an Open Doors local partner in India
A family in a rural part of India have just lost their father – he was brutally murdered because of his faith in Jesus. It’s your job to go and comfort and support the family. How can you reach them safely? When you get there, what do you say? What do you do?
For Abishek*, an Open Doors local partner in India, these are the kind of situations he is dealing with every day. When you pray and give to support persecuted believers in India, he is your hands and feet. The work isn’t always easy – but he considers it a joy to serve his persecuted brothers and sisters. “It is really wonderful to serve this group of people.”
Abishek is from the east of India. He was brought up in a Hindu family, but became a Christian while he was still in school. A preacher spoke with him and asked him, “What are you going to do in your future since you are good in your studies?”
His answer wasn’t so different from that of many young people around the world: “I will study well and I will become maybe an engineer or maybe a doctor, and I will earn money and have a good house.”
But the preacher showed him Matthew 16:26, which says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Abishek says, “That really touched my heart. So I received Jesus Christ.”
Rather than becoming an engineer or a doctor, Abishek went to Bible college, and even went on to teach at Bible college himself. “I felt it was good to go to Bible college. I wanted to surrender my life completely to Jesus. I taught many students. I taught in Bible colleges almost for ten years.”
He became an Open Doors local partner in 2014. “I feel that the Lord is now calling for me into a different realm. That’s why I came into the field – to join in this ministry to really serve the Persecuted Church. The people who are poor, those who have been thrashed, those who have been really hated, who have been persecuted and tortured for the sake of Christ Jesus. It is really wonderful to serve this group of people.”
Abishek explains what serving the Persecuted Church looks like for him day to day. “If somebody is struggling, or maybe somebody has been persecuted or attacked, my first job is to collect information, maybe from local leaders, maybe from local pastors. As soon as we get the information, if that place is okay and the situation isn’t too sensitive, then we go to the place directly and we meet with the believers.
“We help them if their house is burnt, if their house is attacked physically. We provide them with some help to really repair that house. If they have been beaten up then we take them to hospital and we provide them with good treatment. If they have been expelled from their village or from their home then we give them shelter by taking them into another village so they can be safe there.”
Abishek also says the comfort and care that he and other Open Doors local partners are able to bring by being with persecuted believers in person is really vital. “We encourage them; we comfort them; we stand with them shoulder to shoulder and we share with their sorrows.”
He also sees the importance of providing training and education. He says, “Today the biggest need of the church is persecution preparedness. For that we need to give training to the church leaders. It will boost their faith up to be persistent.
“Education is also very much needed in the church. There are many people in the church who have been left out of education. It is our solemn duty to educate believers so that they can read the Bible. The more they read the Bible the more they understand the love of God and grow in their faith.”
The rise of Hindu extremism
Abishek explains that his work comes with risks, particularly when meeting with persecuted believers in their home regions. “We are always facing danger. Danger from political leaders; danger from the Hindu extremists; dangers from the Muslim extremists.
“People keep their eyes on us. When they attack one believer in a village, then they look to see who is supporting this person. And when they see us, they ask lot of questions: ‘Why are you helping? Who are you?’”
He says the greatest danger comes from Hindu extremists. “We face danger from Hindu extremists because they want to completely eradicate the root of the support from these local believers. They think that Christianity is not the religion of India – they think it is a foreign religion. They want to completely eliminate this religion, this people from India. That’s why they target us when we go to the field and help the believers.”
Abishek explains that, while Christianity came to India in the first or second century, Hinduism has been in India even longer than that. “Therefore they are inclined to think that India is a country for Hindus.”
But he believes this is wrong. “In our constitution it is plainly written that India is a democratic country, it is secular. There is no religion that can oppress another religion. All religions have equal rights and authority to live and practice their faith. No single religion can claim that this country belongs to them.”
He also explains that many high caste Hindus do not like Christianity because it threatens the power they have over lower caste Hindus. “They themselves do not like Christians and they also do not like it when the low caste Hindus turn to Christianity, because the high castes always dominate the low castes. But when the low caste Hindus become Christians, they do not give reverence to the high caste Hindu as they were previously. The high castes are afraid of losing their respect and dignity in society.”
Binding up the broken hearted
Abishek shares the story of one family he has been able to support. “The family members had lost the bread winner of that house. He was a very great man, a very good man. He was not a pastor, but he was a strong believer. He used to call the leaders and he used to call the big preachers and coordinate meetings. He used to even distribute the Bibles. He used to distribute the tracts. And he used to help the new believers and the poor believers in that area.”
Abishek explained that the Naxalites, a militant Maoist group in his area, disliked this man. “This man was spreading the Gospel, and people one after another were coming to Christ. They stopped obeying the Naxalites; rather they obeyed the pastors, they obeyed the Bible. He was telling Christians to be good, to be polite, to be humble, to live in a godly manner. Whereas the Naxalites, they want to have their own way, they want to kill people they don’t like.
“The Naxalites wanted to completely remove this man from this community, so that this community can come under their domain. At 4am, early in the morning, the Naxalites came from the jungle and took this man from his own home. They took him to the jungle, and initially they beat him so much that he was shouting, ‘Please help me! Please deliver me!’”
The militants mutilated his body in the most gruesome and humiliating ways. “Then they just beat him. They tied his legs and hung him up in a tree. They were hitting him with big sticks, with rods. And when he was completely senseless, they took him down and they just shot him.”
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could be so cruel to someone – simply because he was encouraging others to follow Jesus and be polite and humble. Abishek says, “It was terrible to see. Such a heinous killing, so brutal. They killed this man of God.
“When his family shared this story to me, I was crying. His wife was crying. He has three children. The first one is five years old, the second one is three years old, and the last one is just one and a half years old.”
The Naxalites threatened to kill the family if they went to the police to report what had happened. Abishek was able to provide them with food and help them to move somewhere else, and when the children are old enough to go to school, he will also help to provide their school fees, thanks to your support and prayers.
He was also able to bring the family comfort and encouragement, and the knowledge that they’re not alone or forgotten. He says, “I went to that family and I cried with them, I encouraged them, I comforted them from the word of God. The man’s wife was telling me, ‘Thank you so much. Nobody has come like that and comforted us.’”
In photo: Meena* and Sunita* from India
Meena* and Sunita*
Abishek has also been involved in supporting Meena* and Sunita*, the two sisters who were beaten with bamboo sticks because of their faith in Jesus.
Abishek says, “It was in the year 2015 we came to know about sisters Meena and Sunita, that they were attacked by the Hindu extremists. These two sister have nobody. They do not even have parents. They have their brothers and their close relatives.
“They were getting so many threats and warnings from the villagers that they should not worship Christ. They were told they should not conduct church service, they should not call people for prayers, they should not invite any Hindus for prayer for healing. But they were insisting on praying. They were conducting church services in their own home.
“So many men and women came with sticks. Some of them came with spears, some of them came with rods. They broke into their house and pulled them by their hair. Some of the ladies were pushing [Meena and Sunita] and hitting them, and even some of the men were beating them. They removed their clothes so they were just left with their blouse and petticoat.”
A pastor from another village came and took the sisters to safety. “They nursed them; they nurtured them; took them to hospital gave them treatment. These two sisters stayed in the pastor’s house.
“I heard about sister Meena and Sunita when one of the local leaders phoned us.”
Abishek was planning to go and meet with the sisters, but because of the volatile situation, it was decided it would be best for him to stay away. But he did speak to them and their pastor on the phone. He decided to help them set up a small shop with support from Open Doors, about 10km away from their home village. They also grow vegetables and sell them.
“Through the shop they are earning money, and they are sharing the profits and blessings with two more sisters. These two sisters are from the same village. They were expelled by their family members.
“They are very thankful to the people of God out of India and in India who are helping them and praying for them.”
‘Standing on behalf of you’
Abishek has a big vision for India. “We want to see our country India being completely Christ-centered. We want to see the name of Christ being lifted up everywhere. We want to see all our leaders reaching every corner of our country to spread the Gospel – to see people being transformed. To see people everywhere lifting up their hands and worshipping the Lord. People should feel that this country is a blessed country. As it is written in the Bible, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 33:12). So we want to see our nation as a whole worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ as our God.”
He has a message for those who make it possible for him to support persecuted believers in India: “I would like to say directly that if you were not bountifully extending your hands, ministering to the Persecuted Church would not be possible in India. We are really standing on behalf of you and reaching out to the people of India. It’s all because of you and we do thank you from down deep in our heart for what you support and for your generosity. I would like to say that we love you, and we thank you so much.”
This is his prayer for you:
Dear Lord, we praise you for all the goodness that we receive from your good hand. We thank you and praise you for your people, those who live abroad and those who live in India, those who generously stretch forth their hands and give to us. We do pray that you would kindly please help them, strengthen them, bless them bountifully. Fill their resources and granary in the coming days that they will be able to support your people more and more.
Father God we pray for their children and their family members, that whatever their heart’s desire is, Lord, You fulfill their heart’s desire, You fulfill their dreams. We thank you Lord Jesus, we lift them up into your mighty hand. Bless them abundantly, make them great. Help them in all their ways Father God, that they will excel more and more in all their ways. Thank you Lord for hearing us. In Jesus’ name we pray.
*Name changed for security reasons