Like many countries, India has gone into lockdown to combat the coronavirus crisis. Without a financial safety net, the impact of measures to combat the outbreak is devastating on many Indian communities. A lot of persecuted Christians have lost their income, and are overlooked when aid is distributed. They need your help.
Reaching these believers is harder than ever but, thanks to your ongoing support, Open Doors partners are doing what they can to provide the most basic of needs to your persecuted family: food.
CHRISTIANS ARE STARVING
In the slums of India, where many of the country’s Christians live, the congregations are very poor and earn each day what they need to survive. “Most church members are daily wage laborers,” says Rahul*, an Open Doors partner in the region. “No work for the day means no food for the day. The pastors’ families are suffering the most.”
Pastors in this area rely on offerings for their income – usually between 200 and 500 rupees a week (approximately PHP120 to PHP 330). Now that nobody has any income to spare, pastors and their families are in desperate need. Shalom*, another Open Doors partner, recently spoke to a pastor called Jai*: “He told me how the lockdown is affecting him and other pastors. They can’t go to work, and they can’t visit their church members. He knows of at least 20 to 30 pastors who are starving because of the lockdown.”
“YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT”
Some church workers are still able to support and encourage members of their congregation remotely. Paras* tells of how he can’t easily visit his church members but gets messages asking 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 to fulfill their physical needs.”
Giving spiritual encouragement is vital, but without relief aid the church in India can’t survive. As we see in the Bible, Jesus always cared for people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. When the disciples tried to send away a crowd to get food, Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). And then He multiplied the food they had, to feed more than 5,000 people. Today, we still need to make sure that believers get the sustenance they need, so they can keep being the light of Christ in their communities.
Open Doors partners in the country are worried that this crisis situation could be used by Hindu extremists as an opportunity to target Christians. “From experience we know that Hindu extremists may try to bribe poor Christians to become Hindus,” says Heena*, another local Open Doors partner. “Then – so they promise – their financial problems will be over. The current crisis makes the Indian church more vulnerable to these tactics.” Christians are also vulnerable because they are often left til last when aid is distributed. In India, and many other countries, Christians are considered the lowest in society.
“WE WERE FACING STARVATION. BUT YOU BROUGHT US FOOD!”
Despite the severe restrictions, Open Doors partners are already able to reach some areas to distribute food and are courageously taking risks and increasing their efforts. Suraj* was desperate when he stopped being able to earn money because of the lockdown. “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!”
Indian Christians who have received vital aid
Amid the stories of great need are also great hope and great answers to prayer. Arun* and his wife recently had a baby, and he supports an extended family of 12. Like Suraj, he was extremely anxious. “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 you brought us food! Now we can survive for at least one month.”
Arun’s words are an echo of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” As He said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Now is the opportunity for urgent prayer and gifts to help our worldwide persecuted family – for whom coronavirus, and the lockdown, mean a further burden on top of the dangers they already face for following Christ.
As Rahul says, “We have a plan to reach out to those who are truly starving. Can Open Doors please help?”
- That Open Doors partners will be able to reach those in most need, bringing them food and hope
- That God would give faith and resilience to those suffering the effects of the lockdown around the world
- For protection against the tactics of Hindu extremists in India.