Out of much adversity has bloomed a planting of the Lord. Vibrant and steadfast, there are those who openly live their faith in a world where opposition is daily present. They cry out for encouragement and training–something IPICM is willing to provide.
The Republic of India is the 2nd most populated country on earth with a combined population of 1 billion, 215 million inhabitants living in 28 states and 7 territories. The largest city is Delhi with well over 22 million individuals, followed by Mumbai (Bombay) supporting more than 20 million residents. The most ethnically diverse country on the planet, India has more than 2,500 people groups. There are 22 official languages with Hindi being the principle tongue, and a total of 456 spoken across the land; 18 of which have more than 10 million speakers. Nearly a third of the population is under 15 years of age.
The social system is still largely governed by castes, though officially, discrimination is illegal under the present constitution. There are 4 major divisions which comprise a total of 4,700 castes and 25,000 sub-castes.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution but that does not always translate into practical protection. As was the case with early Christianity, it is lower social groups that respond most readily to the Gospel, sparking retaliation from Hindutva extremists. According to one source, “Due to mass conversion movements by Dalit groups away from Hinduism, and to evangelistic activities by Christian groups, issues of conversion and anti-conversion laws are of high importance and sensitivity.” (Mandryk, Operation World, 7th ed.)
The principle religion of the land is Hinduism at just over 74%, or nearly 903 million advocates. Other religions are Islam at 14%; Christianity at nearly 6%; Sikhism nearing 2%; the remaining 4% including Buddhism, Baha’i, and other belief systems. Christian groups are primarily Protestant, followed by independents, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox.
Although an emerging economic powerhouse, many are the political, economic, and social problems. With the world’s 3rd largest HIV population, AIDS is a growing crisis. So too is malnutrition, child labor and prostitution, infanticide, and more.
Some of the greater problems facing the church can be found in its makeup. Many churches remain in a Western format, which is limited in its appeal to the average Indian. In some places, church attendance appears to be in decline due to its spiritually nominal condition—something not to be unexpected when introducing non-indigenous, and sometimes rote worship. Traditional Western Christianity will likely find resistance for some time.
IPICM is willing to serve in any way that will assist the local church. In a land where idolatry and hostility to Christ abounds, we know that we must be diligent to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. What we can offer our fellow believers in India depends on a number of factors.
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a beautiful country boasting 8 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world. The official census shows a population of just over 30 million inhabitants, with more than 1 million living in the capital city of Kathmandu.
Once the world’s only Hindu kingdom, other religions are now free to practice their faiths. Hindu comprises 75% of the population; Buddhist 16%; Muslim just over 4%; Christian less than 3%; Sikh, Baha’i, and others makeup the remaining 2-3%.
Christianity has grown from a single church of 29 individuals in 1952, to an estimated 850,000 in 2010; integrating virtually every people group and caste. Following the cessation of civil conflict in the 2000s, there is freedom of religion but not without problems. According to one source, “Non-Hindus cannot proselytize. If they do, they risk fines, imprisonment and . . . expulsion.” (Mandryk, Operation World, 7th ed.) True as this may or may not be, believers courageously hold successful open air meetings (as seen in the accompanying photos). In response, radical Hindus increasingly oppose the Gospel and sometimes harass churches. Outside Christian groups are allowed to function but cannot proselytize. Organizations like IPICM can however, work with local congregations and assist them in their training and other needs.
There are a couple of issues that might also be noted. Christianity is often looked upon as a foreign religion that undermines traditional values and appeals mostly to lower caste individuals—something particularly frowned upon by Hindus who desire to keep the caste system unchanged. Therefore, perceptions are a problem. Also, training for church leaders is in dire need. This is expected given the current social-economic-religious environment.
IPICM spent five weeks in the Dhankuta region and surrounding areas in March-April 2013. Revivals and seminars were conducted in a number of churches but nothing equaled the numbers of Hindus who made their way to evangelistic-healing services; many of which converted to the Christian faith as a result of experiencing God’s healing power.
International Partners in Christian Ministry, IPICM