First the church, 'now they come and beat up the pastors'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – With weapons of wood and faces obscured, the teenage boys pushed into the church hunting for their target.

The violent clip was short, but long enough for Sandeep Kumar to make his point: Persecution of Christian pastors in India is real and on the rise.

“They used to come and destroy church property, now they come and beat up the pastors,” said Kumar during a presentation for church leaders at the Kentucky Baptist Convention offices in Louisville.

Kumar’s comments led to a call to prayer and action from Doug Williams, the missions strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“Our brothers and sisters around the world are literally laying down their lives for the gospel,” said Williams. “We must be willing to stand beside them in any way we can.”

India ranks 15th on the Open Doors World Watch List, the most accurate catalogue of its kind that grades countries on degrees of Christians persecution. North Korea is No. 1. The next nine are countries where Islam is the predominate religion.

Open Doors USA serves persecuted Christians in 60 countries, helping them to stand strong in their faith through Bible study and evangelism training. The non-profit organization also assists believers toward self-sufficiency in communities where they are ostracized by offering various social and economic support.

Kumar, an Open Doors ministry partner, said he knows of six Christian pastors who are sitting in jails across India. He showed a photograph of one of them bound and chained to a wall while other alleged criminals walk freely in a common cell.

“The pastor is (seen as) more dangerous because he went to pray for a sick person, because he brings life and shares Jesus,” Kumar said.

Only two weeks ago an evangelical pastor in northern India was shot and killed in the street while talking on a cell phone. Witnesses said the unknown assailants fled on motorcycles as quickly as they appeared.

Persecution does not end with church leaders, Kumar said. Pastors’ wives, children and extended family members are becoming targets.

“Their children aren’t allowed to go to school,” Kumar said.

Earlier this summer, 72 children on their way to a Christian summer camp were detained by India police. After nearly three months of interrogation, 11 of the older children remain in custody.

“Here in the states, we think about persecution as not being able to get a job or being released from your job. When others in the world are suffering severe physical torture and even murder,” said Kentucky pastor Martin Severns, of Memorial Baptist Church.

The Murray pastor encouraged church leaders to travel abroad with Open Doors, as he has, and witness the daily struggle of believers who want to be able to freely worship and follow Christ.

In addition to offering pastors the opportunity to visit persecuted Christians, Open Doors provides many opportunities for churches to connect, encourage and support the persecuted church in tangible ways.

Learn more at www.opendoorsusa.org.

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