April 10, 2014
Christians in India are fearful that the country's general elections, which begin this week, may lead to a rise in persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. About 815 million people are expected to cast ballots in the elections, which take place in several phases ending May 12. Results are expected to be announced May 16.
Opinion polls suggest a victory for the opposition National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is currently chief minister of Gujarat. He was widely criticized for failing to prevent the massacre of more than 2,000 Muslims in his state in 2002. Modi, 63, has been denied a visa to enter the United States for more than 10 years.
Most incidents of mass violence against Christians have taken place in states under the rule of the BJP. Rev Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, says Modi's rise has led to 'fear and insecurity' among Christians. 'The perception… is that the scale of persecution of Christians will increase,' he says.
While Modi is seen by many—especially those outside India—as a radical Hindu nationalist and a human rights abuser, he is seen by many in India as a capable leader who has improved the economy in Gujarat and brought 24-hour electricity to its people.
“He is seen as having been a very competent, even successful chief minister in Gujurat with the one major exception of the 2002 riots,” Dr. Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia program at The Wilson Center, told NBCNews.com. “The economy there has grown remarkably well and he is regarded as the atypical Indian politician in the sense that he is not surrounded by allegations of corruption or enriching himself personally.”
Christians in India are requesting prayer for their nation as the elections go forward. Pray Christians will find strength and security in Christ as this process moves forward. Pray also for God’s will in the election process.
Sources: Release International (VOM’s sister mission in the UK), NBCNews.com