The church in India recently mourned the death of Vani, a 31-year-old widow who was known for her bold witness and mothering spirit. Vani appears to have died of natural causes, but she was no stranger to persecution.
When Vani met a young runaway last year, she took her under her wings and shared the gospel with her. As a result, Vani was arrested for “kidnapping” and “forcing” the girl to convert to Christianity. She was held in a windowless cell, where she acted as a jail mother to the thirty or so other women confined with her. Even though she was only in prison for two weeks, Vani led over a dozen inmates to Christ and after that time returned regularly to pray and encourage the other prisoners.
Even though India is the largest democracy in the world, Christians are often oppressed by both Hindu and Muslim extremists. A young Christian convert, “Maina,” was abused and tortured by members of a radical Hindu group. When she refused to return to the Hindi faith, even her husband beat her and abandoned her, leaving her to care for their young daughter alone. Other times, Christian converts living in predominantly Hindu regions are forced to undergo Hindi purification rituals against their will.
In addition to pressure from people in their communities, Christians in India can be punished for “forcible conversions,” which are illegal in many provinces. Pastor Khanna ministered to Muslims in northern India. After someone secretly posted a video of him baptizing former Muslim converts, he was arrested. He was charged with forcing people to convert to Christianity either by force or bribery. He was released since there was no evidence against him, but he lost his job and was expelled from his region.
India has more unreached people groups than any other nation in the world. Let’s pray that existing Christians would be encouraged and emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Let’s also pray for the gospel to spread so that many who are lost will also come to faith.