Saturday, February 23, 2008

India - 15 February 2008 - Lessons Learned

1. The Orient is a very different world than the Occident. People live differently, eat differently, express religion differently, and interact differently, to name just a few. There are many commonalities, of course, but I was struck with the differences in human behavior. The good: people are warm, friendly and giving. Family and other relationships are important. I would happily befriend many of the Indians we met. The bad: Indian government and institutions are corrupt and there appears little concern for the environment that supports a population of over one billion. Rubbish is everywhere, and air pollution is omni present, even in the rural areas.

2. Religious persecution against Christians is rising. One church leader told us that 15 years ago “they didn’t like us, but they didn’t hate us. Now, they hate us.” In recent weeks, church buildings have been destroyed, and entire villages comprised mainly of Christians have been destroyed. The government promises religious freedom and justice, but does not provide it. It is tempting to think that it is just a matter of Hindus believing that Christianity is just wrong, and oppose it on that basis. There is probably some of that. But perhaps the biggest reason for the persecution is simply jealousy, according to one church movement leader we talked with. Most Christians are coming from low castes in society. Hinduism has given these people nothing. Christianity gives them everything. As people come to faith, there is a tendency for economic and social circumstances to rise. THIS is what the radical Hindus hate.

3. I am humbled by the faith and persistence of Indian Christians. We met a number of leaders of church movements; some with tens of thousands of adherents. All spoke of the persecution that the Church is experiencing today in India, but there was no hand wringing or whining. They seemed to take it as part of what it means to be a Christian – after all Jesus says it will be so. These leaders were forging strongly ahead; baptizing new believers and training people to be disciples.

4. “No problem” doesn’t necessarily mean there are no problems. I found on a number of occasions that there WAS in fact a problem. It wasn’t that they were lying, rather, to many of the Indians I talked with, it seemed to be an attitude that everything would work out, and that they would do what they could to make it work out.

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