In photo: Kirti* from India
Kirti* is not even 5 feet tall, but a giant in God’s Kingdom. Whenever she sees me – a Caucasian – walk by, she can’t help but smile. As if it’s funny to her that someone can be that white. Open Doors partners have brought her to a secluded place in India, so that it’s safe for her to meet me. She enjoys the sun, the fellowship, the food, the rest, the beautiful garden. But that’s not why she came. She came to share about the day her husband was kidnapped and later murdered. Or to be more precise: she came to tell us that she became a believer through the prayers of others, to tell us that she’s still a believer thanks to your prayers, and to ask for only on thing: more prayer.
(Written by an Open Doors worker visiting India)
Like so many Christians with a Hindu background, Kirti came to faith after God had healed her from a disease that had plagued her for many years. She stayed with the church for a little while, though she doesn’t explain why. After that time, she returned to her village. At the time, several of Kirti’s extended family members were already following Jesus.
Only one week after Kirti returned home, the Hindu villagers called her and all the other believers to a village meeting. “They forced us to stand in the middle and warned us not to go to church. Then they wouldn’t beat us.”
Some Christians got scared and promised not to follow Jesus anymore. Kirti and others didn’t give in and were told to come back the next evening. “That time they warned us that we had to leave the village if we didn’t stop following Jesus. But we said we wouldn’t stop believing. Again they sent us back home and told us to come the next day. And for the third time they threatened us. This time they had brought sticks. We all became very afraid and finally told them we wouldn’t believe in Jesus anymore. But we continued to follow him secretly.”
‘They ate our food and killed and cooked our pets’
Every Sunday, Kirti and her husband organized a secret gathering in her home. It didn’t go unnoticed for long. “After two months the villagers found out and they called another meeting. They said, ‘You have stopped believing in Jesus! Then why do you still gather in a house to worship God?’ Then the mob went to my house. They searched for my Bible and my song book. They threatened to kill me if I continued to worship Jesus. Then they burnt my Bible and my hymnal and they entered my house again to steal rice, wheat and other edible stuff. They also took our chickens and goats. The goats were our pets. But everything was brought to the community hall, where they cooked everything, including the animals. Then the whole village ate our food.”
When they were done, they said, “This is the penalty for your faith. Don’t believe in Jesus Christ anymore.”
According to Kirti, the persecution stopped, because the villagers thought she had finally given up her belief in God. But she stayed faithful and continued to pray by herself in her home. Slowly, the other Christians returned to her house. Sick people were brought in as well and Kirti and the other Christians would pray for them. Healings happened. One person was so sick that he was unconscious and barely alive. He woke up when people prayed for him.
The villagers were enraged. “They called that man and beat him severely. That day they also called people from other villagers. While we were having a service, they surrounded our house. Then they broke in and beat us. We were dragged out of the house and they continued to beat us with their sticks. They also kicked us and slapped us with their hands. They screamed at me, ‘Because of you, all the villages are becoming believers [in Jesus]. They have stopped worshipping the ancestors’ gods and godesses’. My spine was broken and that’s why I’m still not able to work properly. They continued to shout at me to leave Jesus, but God gave me the strength to bear the pain.”
‘We won’t leave Jesus’
The Christians couldn’t resist the beatings. But they did make it clear they weren’t denying Jesus this time. In the meantime, Kirti could only pray. “I prayed to God, ‘Lord, save us if you want to save us!’ He helped us. After some time, the extremists were tired and left.”
When Open Doors partners heard about this incident, they reached out to the Christians and helped them find temporary shelter elsewhere. We also financially supported Kirti and the others – who are are very poor – so that they could pay for their medical bills.
Unfortunately the beating took its toll, especially on Kirti’s husband. He went back to see the state of the house in their village. Again, the villagers threatened him that if he came back he’d be killed.
“He was very fearful”, Kirti says in a soft voice. He even suggested they stopped following Jesus. “I answered: ‘No, I will not stop practicing our faith’. He replied, ‘You continue to believe, I will stop.’ Then he took me back to the village and told everyone that I had stopped believing as well.”
Secretly getting water
But the villagers didn’t believe Kirti and her husband had truly abandoned their faith. “Everyone refused to talk to us and they also forbade us to draw water from the local well. I had to leave my house around midnight to secretly get water.”
But the measures went further. “We weren’t allowed to work and we didn’t benefit from support from the government. But I never gave up my faith. Most of the time we had nothing to eat, but somehow God always provided.”
Slowly and secretly, more Christians visited Kirti again. “We prayed in secret, but the villagers suspected something and found out that I was still praying. Then they told us to write down that we were not going to church and that we wouldn’t practice any Christian rituals. We refused.”
They came with ropes
It’s hard to interrupt Kirti. She’s traumatized and it’s likely that this is the first time she tells her story with this much detail. Obviously, she wants to share her story with brothers and sisters around the world.
It’s unclear if her husband secretly continued to believe or if he really had given up his faith.
The villagers however wanted to solve this problem once and for all. They made plans to remove the Christians from their village entirely. One night, while Kirti and her husband were asleep, a group of men surrounded their house. They had ropes in their hands. The men weren’t only from Kirti’s village, but also from surrounding villages.
They knocked on the door and Kirti answered. She saw the men, who had their faces covered in scarves. Only their eyes were visible.
“Where is your husband?”, they said.
“He’s asleep”, she told them.
She was unable to keep the men outside. They pushed her aside and grabbed her husband. “Where are you taking my husband?”, I screamed. She fought for what she was worth, but the men pushed her back into the house.
They replied, “We will bring him back”. Then they locked Kirti inside her own home.
‘They wanted revenge because I was so stable in my faith’
She kept screaming but it took hours before other Christians heard and freed her. They immediately began the search for Kirti’s husband and went from village to village. After six days, she heard that the captors had taken her spouse back to her own village. “They wanted revenge”, Kirti said. “Because I was so stable in my faith.”
She stops talking for a moment and we can only imagine the horrible movie that’s playing in her mind.
Kirti’s husband begged for his life, asking for mercy because he had four small children. But he had also been tortured, and hadn’t received any food or water while he was blindfolded and dragged from village to village.
When Kirti saw her husband – from a distance – he was unable to recognize her. In Kirti’s own words, “He was acting like a stranger, as if he didn’t know anyone. The people who had abducted my husband had also taken another man. But they didn’t kill him because he was a Hindu. My husband was a believer and that’s why they killed him. I stood in a distance and I could only pray: ‘Lord, may Your will be done’.”
Her husband was taken just out of sight. Kirti couldn’t see him, but she heard how they killed him. The details are too gruesome to mention here. But the villagers told Kirti to take the body. “Only one Christian brother and three Christian sisters helped me. Together we brought him home. The next day I want to bury him, but the villagers didn’t allow me access on the village graveyard. Finally, I ended up burying him on my own land.”
Kirti’s unbroken faith
Now, Kirti’s children stay in Christian hostels and she, a young widow, lives with her mother-in-law. She’s still too injured to work and her mother-in-law was in an accident and can’t earn an income either. How does Kirti survive? “I don’t think about who will help me. I have committed everything into the hands of Jesus. When I feel sad, I remember the Word of God. In all my trials, God helps me. My fellow believers take care of me. The villagers still want to chase me out of my house and my children have very few clothes. But God’s Word says that I shouldn’t worry, but that He provides in all my needs. I don’t know where it says that, but it’s in the Bible. I can’t read, but I’ve have heard and remembered this verse. It’s also my experience that when I fall sick, God heals me.”
She isn’t only grateful to God, but also to her foreign brothers and sisters who have helped me. “You have helped us continuously. You paid for my medical expenses and provided food to us, blankets and clothes as well.”
She glows when she shares that recently many who renounced Christ have repented and follow Him again. After everything that has happened to her in recent years, Kirti’s faith is still unbroken. That’s her gift to us.
The difficult thing about working with and supporting the persecuted is that we usually cannot take people out of the suffering. We can only stand with them in the storm. Kirti has lost her husband, sustained serious injuries, is a pariah in her entire village, misses her children, even earns her own income and cannot even read the Bible. To hear someone like her say, “In all my trials, God helps me”, is like finding a precious stone in the rubble of a burnt down house.
When we ask how we can help her, she only asks for more prayers. She thanks her life and her faith to those prayers, she says. Her prayer points are beautiful like the pearls on a necklace. “Please pray for my children’s education, they are struggling. Also pray that I may build a new house. Pray for an old lady in my village, who is a believer, but she’s being persecuted by the adults and the children because of her faith. Other believers also face persecution for their faith. Kindly pray for them also. Also pray for the murderers of my husband. May God change their heart and may they also accept Jesus in their lives. Finally, pray for the salvation of all the people in my village.”
In photo: Kirti* from India worshipping God with fellow believers
*Name changed for security reasons
India | Digital Encouragement Campaign
When life is hard, you need encouragement. You need to know that you’re not alone. It’s true for every Christian, but it’s especially true for persecuted Christians. In India, Christians make up less than five percent of the population, and in rural areas they can be particularly isolated. They face beatings, false imprisonment and even death because of their faith.
That’s why Open Doors launched a digital encouragement campaign for persecuted Christians in India so that they can be strengthened in their faith by their Christian family around the world.