In India, it’s said there are millions of gods; although, no one has an exact count. Worshipers often travel to ancient temples to make small sacrifices and mark themselves with a talika—a mixture of ash, clay, turmeric or sandalwood—across their foreheads as a religious ritual.
However, within the second most populous country in the world, many people are finding the one true God in the millions—and their lives are never the same. These new believers are not marked with a talika on the foreheads, but with the love of Christ on their hearts.
It’s a sunny day in India and the sunlight caroms off the waving leaves in the Banyan trees above. Kirti* wears a rose-colored sari with a gold shirt. She softly places her hands across her knees as she speaks—nodding and often smiling, despite the gruesome details she shares. Her story is one of loss and deep suffering for Christ, but there’s a lightness to her presence.
Kirti, a young mother in rural India, is one of the Hindu people who found the one true God among the millions in her country. She turned from her Hindu gods to follow Jesus while attending a church service away from her village. As with many Christians in India, God miraculously healed Kirti from a debilitating disease at a worship service.
Although, it would’ve been hard to anticipate the coming persecution, her conversion moment rooted her in Christ—with a deep assurance—and forever marked her faith.
Kirti’s Story (recreated using actors*) – Elder’s Meeting Scene – Kirti (red scarf) brought before the village elders – being thrown to the ground
Confronted by the village elders
When Kirti returned to her village, it only took a week for word to spread in subtle whispers—Kirti rejected the Hindu gods and now she follows ‘a foreign god’ …Jesus.
In a village like Kirti’s, the Hindu religion is part of the community fabric and to go against this religion brings great risk and possible expulsion or even death. The people in the village see this kind of conversion as an apostacy that could anger the gods and bring calamity and misfortune to the entire village. Therefore, rejection of the Hindu faith must be dealt with swiftly and boldly.
It wasn’t long before Kirti was called before the elders—along with the few other Christians in her community—to a special gathering. Everyone in the village was present.
“They called us to the meeting and told me to stand in the middle,” Kirti shares. “They told us to stop going to church or they would beat us.”
Some of the Christians agreed to stop worshiping out of fear, but Kirti’s family refused to deny Jesus. Frustrated with Kirti’s perseverance, the village elders told her to go home and come back the next day. In three consecutive meetings, the elders told Kirti to deny her new God and return to the Hindu faith…or else.
“But we said we will not stop believing in Christ,” Kirti says.
However, at a later meeting the villagers brought bamboo sticks and threatened violence. It was at this moment, out of fear, that Kirti and her husband said they would stop meeting.
But the faith in their hearts was too large to keep that promise. Soon, they started a secret gathering in their house on Sundays. The few Christians gathered to pray, sing—quietly—and soon a pastor from another village started to lead them.
Through their prayers, a young man was healed. But in a small village, it’s difficult to keep anything a secret for long. This healing received the attention of the elders and they brought the young man to a meeting for questioning—similar to the blind man who was healed by Jesus in John 9.
The elders didn’t like his answers so they beat him and gathered a mob to confront the believers at Kirti’s house.
In photo: (recreated using actors*) – mob attacks Kirti
‘This is what you get for following Jesus’
“The mob came into my house. They searched for my Bible. They threatened to kill me if I continued to worship Jesus,” Kirti says.
Then the crowd dragged the Christians out of Kirti’s house and began beating them. “They were beating us with sticks, kicking and punching us mercilessly,” Kirti says.
While they were beating Kirti, they told her it was her fault all of the village people were becoming Christians. They also kept yelling ‘Leave Jesus!’ over and over.
The mob eventually found Kirti’s Bible, lit it on fire and burned it in front of her. Then they ransacked the house and stole all of her food—rice, wheat, vegetables and even took her chickens and goats.
All the while, Kirti kept praying, “Lord, save us if you want to save us!”
Eventually, the mob got tired and left. Then, the elders made an announcement through a loudspeaker telling everyone in the village to come for a feast. It was there that they cooked Kirti’s food and animals and shared it with all of the villagers. They literally ate her livelihood. “This is what you get for following Jesus,” they said.
All of the Christians were injured, but Kirti received the worst of it with a broken back—something that still hinders her today. They were all rushed to the hospital where Kirti stayed for over two weeks in recovery. It was at this moment that Open Doors heard about Kirti and the Christians in her village and, through partners, helped pay the medical bills and provided spiritual care and support for the small number of courageous Christians in her village.
Taken away at night
When Kirti and her husband returned to their home, everyone in the village stopped talking to them and refused to let them draw water from the village well.
“I used to draw water secretly at midnight,” Kirti says.
The believers in the village kept quiet for a while, but slowly a few Christians began stopping by Kirti’s home again for prayer. It was a dangerous act of defiance and when the elders heard that their beatings and public shaming didn’t stop the believers from following Jesus, they were infuriated.
Then, late at night, a group of men carrying ropes surrounded Kirti’s home. They knocked on the door, rushed in and grabbed Kirti’s husband by force. Kirti tried to stop them, “Where are you taking my husband!” she screamed, but the men ignored her cries, pushed her back in the house and locked her in her own home. Kirti yelled for help, but it would be hours before the other Christians in her village heard her and unlocked the door.
In photo: (recreated using actors) Kirti in husband’s burial. The villagers would not allow the body of Kirti’s husband to be buried at the villages cementery.
A remote burial
The men who took her husband tortured him in unthinkable ways for days. Kirti desperately tried to find him, going from village to village – and finally she found out where he was. She went to see him from a distance. She was sure he saw her, but he didn’t seem to recognize her.
Then he was taken away somewhere, where Kirti couldn’t see. Kirti was only a hundred meters away and heard his cries. He had been killed.
Kirti and a few other Christians were allowed to take his body. There were no arrests or prosecutions for her husband’s killers, and she didn’t receive sympathy from the non-Christians.
Once she returned home, the village leaders refused to allow her to bury her husband in the village cemetery. So Kirti took her husband’s body to a plot of land outside of the village and buried him there. A few other Christians joined her for a small ceremony.
The safe house
After this devastating event, Kirti left the village with her children for a safe house. During her time at the safe house, Open Doors partners helped Kirti and her children with food supplies, clothing, blankets, financial support and spiritual care. We still do. Her injuries prevent her from working and she continues to be in great danger. Thanks to our local church partners, Kirti now lives in a different house and is safer. We also still occasionally provide food packages.
“[You] helped me financially and because of your help, my kids are attending school,” Kirti shares.
Through incredible suffering and loss, Kirti’s faith is still unshakeable. “I have committed everything into the hands of Jesus,” Kirti says. “When I feel sad, I remember the Word of God. In all my trials, He helps me. I cannot read or write, but I memorize what the pastor teaches me. Because of attacks, many new Christians are leaving the faith, but I’m stable in my faith. Thanks to your care and love, I’m still alive and a follower of Jesus today.”
A victorious faith
But Kirti is not out of danger and her needs are still great, along with thousands of other Christians like Kirti—countless men, women, young adults and children—who have made the commitment to follow Jesus in a Hindu world.
As of today, Kirti has returned to her village to be a light for Christ once again.
“My village people want to chase me out. The people often threaten to kill me. [But] I pray for the salvation of my village and I believe that my village will receive that salvation,” Kirti says.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
*Name changed for security reasons
Join Kirti in praying that her courageous witness will lead many from her community to faith in Christ.
If you are able to give, please continue to do so. Every PHP 2550 could provide emergency items like flour, rice, tea, salt, oil, potatoes, soap and masks to last a family like Kirti’s for a month.
Please pray for Kirti and her children, that as she bears witness to her community, that God’s hedge of protection would be upon them.
Pray that she would be strengthened day by day and that her faith would not waver. Pray that she would see God move in amazing ways.
Pray for daily provision in terms of spiritual and physical food, and that their needs would be met.