Like many other countries, INDIA, #10 in this year’s World Watch List, has gone into lock down to combat the covid-19 crisis. While there are ‘only’ 900 confirmed cases of infected people in a country with more than a billion people, the impact of the measures is immense. Many persecuted Christians have lost their income and ask for urgent help. Reaching them is harder than ever, but Open Doors’ partners are doing what they can to provide the most basic of basic needs: food.
Dhiraj* is a dedicated pastor. He and his small family live in the slums of a big city in India. He sent us a message: “Our church is situated in the same slums we live. The church members are very poor, but each week they give an offering. This is my only salary: 200 – 500 rupees a week (roughly US$2.50 – $6.50, or Php130-Php330). But now we are in lock down and there are no more offerings. I can go nowhere and I cannot find other work. I’m turning to you for help.”
Dhiraj is just one Christian with these needs. There are thousands of them. Perhaps millions. All of them live in a country that becomes increasingly hostile to the Gospel. The corona virus outbreak threatens their lives.
Open Doors partner Rahul* says, “The congegration are really poor. Most church members are daily wage laborers and no work for the day means no food for the day. The pastors’ families are suffering the most. We have a plan to reach out to those who are truly starving. Can Open Doors please help?”
Shalom*, another partner, called us to tell the heartbreaking story of Jai*. “Last time we spoke, everything was okay. Now he told me how the lock down is affecting him and other pastors. They can’t go to work, and they can’t visit their church members. They have identified at least 20 to 30 pastors who are starving because of the lock down.”
Tara* and her husband serve the Lord in a poor area in India and are struggling as well. “We don’t have enough to feed our children. I can’t watch them starve and we cannot go to our parents. Please, kindly do something to support the body of Christ.”
Church worker Paras gets a lot of calls from his church members – most are daily wage laborers. “In this situation when the country is under lockdown they have been calling us and requesting for help. We are able to help them spiritually by sending them messages and God’s Word through social media like WhatsApp and Facebook. But we are not able fulfill their psychical needs. May we request your organization to help with providing food to the poor people in the church?”
Open Doors’ founder Brother Andrew started by visiting persecuted Christians in eastern Europe and giving the Bible to them. Later, our ministry added training, but soon we discovered that giving Bibles and training is only useful once the most basic needs have been met.
For this reason, an important pillar of our work in countries like India is to support the persecuted church with urgent aid and relief. In cooperation with our partners, we are trying to reach persecuted Christians in India who are starving because of these measures against Covid-19.
This is important now, but also for the future. “Right now, there’s not much interaction between people,” says a local Open Doors partner, Heena*. “From experience we know that Hindu extremists may try to bribe poor Christians to become Hindus. Then – so they promise – their financial problems will be over. The current crisis makes the Indian church more vulnerable to these tactics.”
Despite the lockdown, Open Doors partners are able to reach some areas to distribute food. Arun* and his wife recently had a baby. His extended family that he takes care of consists of 12 people. “Because of the lockdown, I can’t earn any money. I’m also involved in part-time ministry, which I can’t do either now. We were facing starvation. But suddenly you brought us food! Now we can survive for at least one month.”
Aryan*, a minister who visits small villages, received support as well. “My only source of income is the offering which I used to get from Sunday service and house visitss. My income is just hand to mouth. I couldn’t save money for my future. Due to the lockdown in our area I couldn’t go out to meet believers. Last week I fell sick and for this reason I spent all the money which I had. Then the lockdown came and darkness descended on me. How could I feed my family? Then your organization came with groceries and other aid. Now we have enough for at least one month.”
Suraj*, a daily wage laborer, had lost all hope after the anti-virus measures came into effect. “I felt helpless and really prayed hard to God. I asked Him if he could open the door so that we could get food to survive. Suddenly my pastor prayed and said that an organization had dropped off groceries and other daily necessities for families hit by this crisis. Thank you so much! I was so happy to receive this help!”
Will you please pray and give for persecuted Christians, especially now in this time of increasing need? Persecution doesn’t stop because of a virus epidemic. In fact, the pressure on our persecuted brothers and sisters in many regions in the world is mounting. This crisis can hurt the Church, or make it stronger.
“We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up. When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers.” (Gal. 6:9-10)
*All names changed for security reasons.