The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India continues to grow - and Christians in India continue to be at the back of the queue when it comes to official aid and food.
In the UK and Ireland, we’re still being very cautious. Churches are still likely to be meeting online. There are friends and family we haven’t seen for months. But as lockdown measures gradually ease here, things are getting worse for our brothers and sisters in India. Each day, the number of new cases is higher than the day before – and the country has reported at least 18,000 new cases each day for the past five days. Only Brazil and the US are higher. And that’s only counting the people who have been able to get tested.
Obviously, India has a vast population, and the number of confirmed cases per million citizens is quite far down on a table of countries – but the situation is getting worse, and Christians are still likely to be the last in line to receive vital food and aid.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown situation, the underprivileged Christian community has been facing one of the most difficult situations ever,” says local partner Heena*, who has been working with persecuted Christians in India for many years. “They were already facing persecution because of their faith. The circumstances continue to be challenging: people are unable to go out for work and therefore the source of income is completely at a standstill for millions of people, especially the daily wage workers.” Independent pastors are also among those who’ve lost their incomes completely, because Sunday services aren’t happening.
Heena and other Open Doors partners in the region have met many Christians who have been denied help explicitly because of their faith. She has many examples to share. “We received a cry for help from a family of five. The police have been threatening them a lot because they are Christians and do ministry. Now everyone in their village received relief aid, except for the Christian families,” she says.
“A disabled Christian man and his family of six were also bypassed. He can’t even walk, but still the local people aren’t giving him and his family any food. They have been opposed by the village since they came to faith.”
This is the tip of the iceberg for Indian believers. And, with the virus spreading further, the need is only going to grow as people take necessary or enforced precautions – many of which mean no income, no money and no food.
"We need to continue to help our brothers and sisters" Heena
“It’s difficult to deal with all these requests. But we have no choice,” says Heena. “We need to continue to help our brothers and sisters. Despite the critical health risks, we do not stop distributing ration supplies wherever we can.”
Thanks to your prayers and gifts, Heena and other Open Doors partners are able to visit those who are the most vulnerable, bringing them the food and aid they desperately need – as well as praying with them and sustaining persecuted believers spiritually.
Believers like Ashish*, who shares his story: “I am involved in ministry in several villages. My only source of income was the offering which I used to get from the Sunday service. My income was just hand-to-mouth and I could never save much money for emergencies. Due to the lockdown in our area, I was not able to go out to meet church members.
“Recently I fell sick and I spent the little money I had on my health. The lockdown situation was a dark cloud hovering on me. While I was thinking how to sustain my family and praying over it, I was relieved when God answered my prayers through Open Doors and its partners. I thank God for His blessings! The groceries and essential items are more than sufficient and we as a family can sustain ourselves for a month and more.”
Anuj* agrees. He says, “I have an independent ministry in my village and work part-time as a cleaner. I have a total of 12 members in my family – my wife and I were recently blessed with a baby, and only a few weeks later the government declared lockdown due to Covid-19.
“Due to this situation, I was not able to work and provide for my family. We were facing so much trouble. My economic condition is very bad. In fact, we faced starvation. However now, by the grace of our God and through your help, we have received some groceries and some everyday essentials. Now my family can survive at least another month.”
Open Doors partners have reached 8,800 Christian families in India with life-sustaining supplies. There are many more to reach. Please consider praying and giving today, to support our family in crisis. As Jesus says in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”
Lord, we thank You for Your provision to Your children in India, facing an increasingly difficult situation. We ask that You would enable Open Doors partners like Heena to identify, meet with, and pray and provide for more Indian Christians – and that You would give those giving and those receiving aid strength, protection and a joyful knowledge of their identity in You.