India has one of the largest populations in the world, only slightly less than China with its people practicing a number of major religions – Hinduism, Islam and Christianity – along with many minor beliefs.
Whilst India is developing into a modern state, with a growing middle class, it is also a country of extremes. The poverty of millions is appalling, yet the Government spends millions on its space programme. Then there is the outlawed ‘caste’ system with its many restrictions increasing the lower you are in society. This is part of the Hindu belief, which also has many hundreds of deities that people worship, all holding people in bondage and fear. It is amazing that the largest ‘democracy’ in the world does not collapse! Women are very much second class citizens, as evidenced in the increase of rapes (some of whom happen in full public view) for which people get away with due to the corrupt police forces. Hindu extremism is also on the increase with fatal attacks on Christians and Moslems, especially since the current Hindu BJP Government came to power. It is also, along with Pakistan, its arch enemy, a nuclear power. A further complication is that each state within India, has its own rules and regulations (many not meeting international standards – like anti-conversion laws). Also, many western businesses, especially in the IT sector, base their call centres in India as wages are cheaper. (I find the operatives difficult to understand because their accent is so strong!)
On a more positive note, despite the intense persecution, many thousands of Indians are becoming Christians as a result of a keenness to share their faith – with very little if any input from western Christians. Christians run many of the main hospitals in India as well as many schools, homes for orphans, helping the many women trafficked amongst many other ministries which much of the population forget. But, as elsewhere, there is a proliferation of denominations, and the many problems that beset Christians everywhere. If there is to be an effective witness and influence, there needs to be increased co-operation and adaptability in all ministries in and outside the church buildings and based on the Bible. We are talking about millions of Christians. If they get their act together, then there is likely to be a better respect and influence on Indian society. There is so much evil spiritual activity not being recognised by the Christians that they often hit ‘a brick wall’. They need (as much as every Christian does) to employ the power that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Part of the problem is the high level of illiteracy and a lack of a broad education encouraging inter-communal living. Here, western governments should engage the Indian Government, in a dialogue to rectify this situation. Many of the extremists are those that are illiterate and therefore easily manipulated to carry out violent acts, especially in rural areas. Also, more work needs to be done to abolish the caste system, including carrying out prosecutions of those who perpetuate it. The current Government is carrying out an exercise where everyone has an ID card. In some ways that is good thing to help make sure all people can access the services everyone is entitled to, but there needs to be legislation to make sure the system is not abused by the Government or anyone else. Another big issue is the bureaucracy – to obtain papers, it has to pass through so many levels, such that much activity takes ages to process. This needs to be rectified because it stifles economic growth and encourages corruption. And finally, there has to be campaigns to educate the masses on their responsibilities in being part of a democracy, especially knowing how to identify which candidate is suitable. Otherwise, voters are corrupted through inducements from the candidates. As part of that India needs candidates from all sectors of society.
So, in conclusion, the Indian Government needs to take action in strengthening police training so that the law is upheld, pay them regular and decent wages so as to avoid corruption; make state laws that do not meet international standards illegal; overhaul the caste system and carry out campaigns to get every level and sector of society to work together in respect and empowerment; seek to find ways to lift the poor out of poverty.
Christians need to spend much more time in prayer, not only praying for people to become disciples, but also for the issues facing the country. For Christianity is a whole life belief system based on a relationship with Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, and led by the Holy Spirit so as to give glory to God in all we do, say or think.