Diaspora

During the colonial era of the late 19th century, Hindu Indians began migrating to other parts of the world. Many were initially sent as indentured servants to Southern and Western Africa and the Caribbean islands. Later, Indian merchants and businessmen sought opportunities in Africa.

After World War II and India’s independence in 1947, 1.5 million Indians were granted access to the United Kingdom as the nation experienced a severe post-war labor shortage. They primarily filled unpopular jobs in exchange for naturalization through the nationality act of 1940. In 1960,

the United States of America also changed its immigration laws to allow more than 900,000 Indian professionals into the country.

Currently, more than 15 million people of Indian origin are dispersed throughout the world. Indians who live outside the Asian subcontinent are referred to as the Indian Diaspora. Most of them are in their second

or third generation of living abroad. While many people in the Indian Diaspora are still Hindu and celebrate popular religious and cultural customs, such as Diwali (the Festival of Lights starting today that celebrates the victory of light over darkness), the younger generation is not as strongly tied to these traditions as their parents. In fact, thousands of them have become Christians.

The Indian Diaspora has given us a wonderful opportunity to witness to Hindus in our own backyard, but to do this we must first welcome them with God’s heart. We must respect their culture and the diversity it brings to us. Always remember that no religious system has ever saved anyone; rather, it is the personal relationship to the living Christ that has saved souls. Let us acknowledge that we are all aliens and strangers on this earth as we reach out to the Hindus living among us.

Diwali Day 5: Bhai Dooj (the last day of the festival): This day is dedicated to the brother-sister relationship. Sisters put a red tilak (mark) on their brothers’ foreheads and pray for a prosperous life, while brothers bless their sisters and give them presents.

WAYS TO PRAY

PRAY FOR the Christians who are reaching out to Hindus with God’s love, that they may have wisdom and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

PRAY FOR the younger generation, that their hearts will be open to the gospel.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Treatment of Widows

Widows are some of the most unfortunate people in India. Traditionally, when a husband dies his widow is shunned and ostracized from society, including her own family. Widows are considered to be unlucky and a financial drain, and they are often blamed for their husband’s death. They are not allowed to remarry, and they are forced to shave their heads, wear white and not wear jewelry.

There are an estimated 40 million widows in India today. Despite the Widows’ Remarriage Act, which was passed in 1856, these customs still remain strong. “India is home to a traditional and patriarchal society, where the identity of women is determined by her husband even in the 21st century. Widowhood in such a society takes its worst shape. It is not only associated with losing a bread-winner but has wide ranging social implications.”*

Government assistance programs, such as the Indira Gandhi Widow Pension, are available, but they are restrictive and only help a small portion of women in need.

With little possibility of a bright future, many widows travel to the city of Vrindavan in northern India in the hope that they might die there.

According to Hindu teachings, if one dies in this city it stops the cycle of death and rebirth. There are an estimated 15,000 widows in this city of 55,000 people. They congregate there with the hope that dying in the city will free them from the same fate in their next life.

Diwali Day 4: Padwa, Govardhan or Bali Pratipada In North India this fourth day is celebrated by a special puja (the Mount Govardhan ritual). Mythology recounts that on this day Krishna lifted up the mountain on his little finger to protect the people of Govardhan from the anger of the rain god Indra. Some worshippers recreate Mount Govardhan by shaping cow dung into a mound outside their front door (others create figures out of cow dung), then make a flame offering before it and decorate it with flowers.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Rev 21:4

 

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • PRAY FOR Christian outreach to widows in the city of Vrindavan, that they will be able to share their hope in Christ.

  • PRAY FOR widows to learn about the everlasting love of Christ, and to have opportunities to continue contributing to society in meaningful ways from which they may find value.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Trafficking

There are many forms of modern slavery, but they all involve the control and exploitation of human beings for commercial gain. Modern human slavery is a global problem that is growing yearly, but it is difficult for those of us living in the West to understand how human beings are still bought and sold for slave and child labor or sex work today.

Every day, men, women and children are transported across the Indian subcontinent and forced into slave labor or sex work. According to last year’s Global Slavery Index, over 18 million people are living in modern slavery in India. Most of them are forced to work in brutal farming and factory conditions. Although there are no official figures on how many people become victims of sex trafficking, activists estimate the number is somewhere between three and nine million. Because trafficking is under- reported, however, the numbers are probably much higher.

India is also a destination for women and girls smuggled for sexual exploitation from neighboring countries. Indian women are trafficked to the Middle East for the same purpose. Indian migrants who willingly travel to the Middle East and Europe to work as domestic servants and low-skilled laborers may also end up in the human trafficking industry by falling into situations of forced labor or debt bondage.

Although India has passed laws making trafficking illegal, they are not widely enforced. Numerous humanitarian and Christian groups are currently trying to rescue trafficked people. This can be a very dangerous endeavor, as they are dealing with an underground criminal network.

DIWALI DAY 3 Diwali (the day of the new moon) THIS IS DIWALI’S MOST IMPORTANT DAY.

The whole house is cleaned to welcome the goddess Lakshmi. Men and women put on new clothes and women wear new jewelry. In the evening a puja (ritual) to Lakshmi is performed, and diyas (oil lamps) are lit inside and outside the house. Gifts and sweets are exchanged to strengthen bonds with friends and family. Later in the evening, firecrackers are set off to banish inauspicious forces.

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15)

 

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • PRAY THAT the criminals who traffic and exploit women and children will be exposed and brought to justice.
  • PRAY FOR protection for the Christian organizations who are trying to help and rescue trafficked women and children.
  • PRAY FOR the hearts and minds of the victims, that they will find the God of all comfort.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Bollywood

Bollywood is the massive Indian movie industry that started in Bombay (now called Mumbai) in the 1930s. It currently produces between 1,500 and 2,000 movies a year in a number of Indian languages. In terms of volume, Bollywood is the largest movie producer in the world and generates the largest number of ticket sales.

Over the years, several classic genres have emerged from Bollywood: the historical epic, the curry Western, the courtesan movie—which features beautiful cinematography and dance choreography—and the mythological theme. Through various plot structures, many of these movies display the struggle between good and evil, hero and villain. A consistent element in most of them is the incorporation of a number of music and dance sequences, which may be considered the hallmarks of a Bollywood film.

Bollywood movies are a reflection of the evolution and changes that are occurring in Indian society. Today, they usually reflect a more liberal depiction of Indian life. Javed Akhtar, a renowned Indian poet and screenwriter, aptly described the industry: “The films certainly do reflect what is happening in society. But they reflect the desires, the hopes, values, and traditions.”

But Bollywood movies are more than just a reflection of society; they also have a significant influence on the culture, which gives them the power to shape certain cultural trends. Some of Bollywood’s movies have stirred controversy because of their increasingly sexual content. These movies are very popular and provide escapist entertainment to impressionable young people, creating a standard for acceptable moral behavior that pushes traditional boundaries. Many Bollywood movies are now reaching a wider audience and are even trending in Western countries.

Diwali Day 2: Naraka Chaturdasi or “Choti Diwali”

On this day, Lord Krishna is reputed to have destroyed the demon Narakasur, freeing the world from fear. People prepare by cleansing themselves with oil, and rest so that they will be ready for the Diwali celebrations. Traditionally during this day, one stays home and does not light diyas (little oil lamps). Nowadays people go out and visit friends and family and exchange gifts and food.

WAYS TO PRAY

  • PRAY FOR a movement among Indian movie directors and producers towards truth and goodness.
  • PRAY FOR Christian movie makers to rise up within this influential

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Festivals

India is known for its many festivals. Hindu festivals are a colorful combination of religious ceremonies and ritual spectacles that include worship, prayer, processions, music and dance, eating, drinking, feeding the poor and other religious or traditional activities.

The original purpose of these festivals is diverse. Some are meant to purify or ward off malicious influences. Others are intended to renew society, bridge critical moments, and stimulate or resuscitate the vital powers of nature. Because Hindu festivals relate to the cyclical life of nature, they are supposed to prevent it from stagnating. These cyclic festivals, which may last for many days, create a rhythm and structure for the year.

One of the most important festivals is Diwali, similar to the popularity of Christmas for Christians. It lasts for five days and usually falls in October or November. Called the “festival of light”, it represents new beginnings and the triumph of light over darkness. In some parts of India, the festival coincides with the harvest. The name “Diwali” comes from the Sanskrit word deepavali, which means a row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians typically place outside their homes.

Hindus around the world celebrate many variations of this festival. In northern India, the festival celebrates the return of the god Rama to the city of Ayodhya, where Rama’s rule of righteousness will commence (reminiscent of the Christian belief that Christ will return to earth to establish His kingdom). In some parts of India, the festival also coincides with the last harvest of the year, and in some regions the fourth day of Diwali marks the beginning of a new year. Diwali is also enjoyed by non-Hindu communities, such as in Jainism and Sikhism.

Right now is a unique time to pray for Hindus, as they are celebrating the power of light over darkness for the next five days.

WAYS TO PRAY

  • PRAY THAT during this time of celebrating light a hunger for the light of Christ will grow in the hearts of many Hindus.
  • PRAY THAT a desire for the true reign of righteousness will capture their hearts.

Dhanteras—the 13th day after the full moon

The first day of the festival is considered an auspicious, lucky day.

This is the first day of the festival and dedicated to Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity. It is also customary on this day to buy new utensils or jewelry. Little lamps are lit to welcome the goddess.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

The Rich, OLD Ruler

You’ve heard the story of the rich young ruler from Mark 10. North India also has a “rich ruler.” He isn’t young, though, which makes  it even harder to “sell everything.” Elders in India have standing. And this man has been a pastor for years! 

Recently a young newlywed couple moved into his area, having little or no social standing. But they didn’t let that stop them. They kept talking to the pastor about being disciples of Jesus, really following Him, and teaching others to do the same. The pastor was fascinated by their excitement. They had personal stories of miracles and of whole families getting baptized together! 

The “rich old ruler” had a choice to make: keep all he had and walk away, or sell all and follow. He chose to “sell all.” He humbled himself and began learning from the younger couple. The three of them are now a disciple-making team, bearing fruit among the lost. Whole households are giving their allegiance to Jesus. This “rich old ruler” was willing to lose his life for Jesus’ sake, and now he has truly found it.

Pray that new disciples quickly learn to love and obey Jesus, surrendering all, so his living water can flow through them to others.

The Indian Church

The Christian Church in India dates as far back as the first century, and new churches are still being constructed today. Tradition states that it was St Thomas who first brought Christianity to India. Today, it is the third largest religion in India after Hinduism and Islam, comprising approximately 2.3 percent of the country’s population.

William Carey is one of the founders of modern Protestant missions. He settled in Serampore, north of Kolkata (previously Calcutta), in 1793 and devoted his life to bringing the gospel to India until his death on June 9, 1834. He and other early missionaries worked on Bible translation and church planting, and they were also deeply involved in social action and reform.

The Indian Church experienced dramatic growth in the early part of the 20th century, and the conversions are referred to as “mass movements”. The majority of Christian conversions have come from the lower castes such as the Dalits, while the higher castes have remained largely resistant. Most Protestant denominations are represented in India, but almost all of them are now exclusively staffed by Indians; the role of foreign missionaries is limited.

The modern Indian Church is not without its problems.

The caste system has been difficult to eradicate, even within the Church, which has discouraged some converts from attending church. Some converts are reluctant to attend traditional churches and identify as Christians due to the political climate of prejudice and oppression. They may choose to follow Jesus but still identify culturally as Hindu. These are complex issues that cannot be thoroughly addressed within the scope of this article. For more in-depth information, check out the book Christian Barriers to Jesus by JP Pennington (William Carey Library, 2017).

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matt 5:1


PRAY THAT
the Church will rightly represent Jesus as the light of the world, so that non-believers will be attracted to Him and want to know Him.

PRAY THAT Indian Christians will be strengthened to continue to love one another as Christ has loved us, and thus glorify God.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

 

India’s Caste System and Christianity

India’s caste system, a highly structured method of organizing society into classes, is still a powerful force in every Hindu’s life. It comes from Hinduism’s sacred text Manusmruti, which teaches that all people are born from different parts of the body of Brahma (Hinduism’s creator god). From the head of Brahma came the Brahmins (priests and academics). From his arms came the Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers). The Vaishyas (merchants and traders) were created from his thighs, and the Shudras (laborers) from his feet. Below them are the so-called “untouchables”, now called Dalits, who do the most menial tasks.

The caste system has been used for thousands of years to justify oppression. Violence against Dalits has been especially prevalent. Although India’s constitution outlawed discrimination against Dalits in 1950, caste-based prejudices persist and are even inflamed by Dalits asserting their right to equality. Dalit women suffer the worst of it, and are more likely to end up in contemporary slavery or to become a temple prostitute in the name of religion.

Historically, most conversions to Christianity in India have come from the Dalits. The higher castes have been consistently resistant to the religion, especially because Christianity, by its very nature, abolishes castes. Castes can be a barrier to the gospel, especially the higher castes, which have much more to lose and would no longer have the most power and privilege.

Castes and Christianity should not co-exist. Following Jesus requires us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Christianity affirms the value and dignity of every person created by God. These central values challenge the caste system, and converting to Christianity represents a radical act that not only brings spiritual freedom to the individual, but has the potential to cause social upheaval.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • PRAY FOR ongoing societal change that will loosen the grip of the caste system.

  • PRAY FOR the protection of Indian Christians who face many challenges.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

Hindutva: Radical Nationalism

One of the most significant movements in Hinduism today is the rise of the sociopolitical ideology Hindutva, which literally means “Hinduness”. Its influence has grown for the past 20 years, and it is the ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s current ruling party.

Hindutva is exclusionary. It is a right-wing, nationalistic movement whose core belief is that India’s national identity should be synonymous with being exclusively Hindu. Other ethnic or religious minorities cannot be fully “Indian”, regardless of their birthplace. This pervasive ideology results in the oppression and persecution of minority groups.

In a country where one-fifth of the population is non-Hindu, this ideology is especially problematic.

Christians are particularly vulnerable, and they have already suffered severe persecution under this political ideology. On January 9, 2019, hardline Hindus tore down a church in Narnepadu village in the state of Andhra Pradesh “because it was built on the west side of a village, which they claimed violated Hindu principles of placement and positioning.” (Morning Star News, January 17, 2019)

On April 10, 2019, a Christian tribal man in the Indian state of Jharkhand was killed by a crowd of Hindu radical “cow protectors” on suspicion of having slaughtered an ox, which is considered a sacred animal by Hindus. (AsiaNews)

Some states are passing laws that criminalize conversion, and they have introduced programs that encourage converts to “come home” to Hinduism. Many Western Christian organizations have had to leave or scale down their operations.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:10–12


WAYS TO PRAY:

  • PRAY FOR wisdom and courage for local Christians who are trying to live and share their faith in a hostile environment.

  • A POLITICAL CLIMATE like this makes it difficult for the gospel to be shared; pray that a more tolerant government will come into power.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide

India: A Quick Overview

India is home to the world’s largest population of Hindus. With more people than Europe or Africa and more than twice as many people as the Americas, it is almost an oversimplification to consider India a single country. With more than 800 languages and dialects, half-a-dozen major religions, and climate zones ranging from tropical to temperate to Arctic, it is one of the most diverse nations in the world. It is also the second most populous.

India hosts many religions. Hinduism accounts for the majority of people, but there is also Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Zoroastrianism, to name a few. India also has many tribal people who are animists, as well as many of the world’s unreached populations.

Christians comprise approximately 2.3 percent of India’s population. Although that doesn’t sound like much, it is still roughly 28 million people. Having gained its independence from Britain in 1947, India has been moving in a progressive direction. The nation is a federal parliamentary democratic republic in which the president is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. It is also the world’s largest democracy. The current ruling political party is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which translates as the “Indian People’s Party”. It is nationalistic and pro-Hindu, excluding other religions. The party enjoys broad support among members of the higher castes and in northern India. India has also developed an indigenous industrial base.

She has her own space industry and boasts the world’s largest movie industry. With over 300 million people having access to the internet, India is now the second most-connected nation in the world (after China). The country’s smartphone users spent an average of 169 minutes per day on their devices in 2015. The influx of low-cost smartphones and laptops, coupled with relatively low-cost mobile plans, have empowered people across the country to connect, especially in rural India.

WAYS TO PRAY:

  • Pray for the political leaders to govern with wisdom and fairness in such a diverse setting.
  • Pray for the business leaders to help the less advantaged during this age of tremendous growth.
  • Pray for those in the influential movie industry to bring truth to people’s lives.

From The Hindu World Prayer Guide