Friday, 3 September 2010

Persecution: Swaroopa's story

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

In August 2008 the worst anti-Christian violence in the history of independent India broke out in the state of Orissa. More 50,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Many of their houses, churches and schools were destroyed, and more than 40 people were killed.

I would like to tell the true story of Swaroopa Naik (courtesy Barnabus Fund, a UK based charity working for persecuted Christians around the world).

Escape in the jungle

Swaroopa was brought up in a Christian home with her brother and two sisters. Her father, Sunil, is a farmer. On Monday 25 August 2008 the family was busy with the housework as usual while Swaroopa was having a bath. Suddenly she heard terrible noises outside, and running out of the house she saw her family rushing into the forest. Swaroopa ran too and was chased by the attackers, but she was quick enough to escape them.

Swaroopa eventually found her parents in the jungle. Taking shelter under a tree, they heard the dreadful sound of homes being destroyed and saw a plume of smoke rising into the sky. But Swaroopa says, "Both of my parents were consoled by the very thought that this tragic attack has been due to the fact that we believe in Jesus Christ and are Christians." "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:10)

After a while the family heard the attackers coming along the path they themselves had taken, so they ran and hid themselves in the bush. The sunny weather changed to cloudy skies, and they prayed that the Lord would send rain. And then - a heavy downpour! The pursuers called off the chase and went back the way they came. Swaroopa and her parents praised God.

The Lord who provides

When the rain stopped the family went back to their village. There they found that their house had been reduced to a pile of ashes and debris. No one in the village would take them in for the night, so they returned to the jungle to shelter under the trees. Early next day they set off to escape the pursuing assailants.

In the evening Swaroopa and her family reached Phulbani, a large township, where they felt safe enough to stay for two weeks. After this they moved on to Cuttack, the largest city in Orissa, where they stayed with a family member.

After the anti-Christian violence had subsided, Swaroopa's parents were able to return to their village to visit what was left of their house. They learned from their pastor about a ministry (supported by Barnabus Fund) that offers vocational training to young people displaced from Orissa by the violence. This is designed to equip them to return to the region later, not only to live there, but also to make a positive contribution to the community and to witness for Christ.

Swaroopa obtained a college place to study nursing and midwifery and is about to complete her first year of training. She writes, "We thanked and rejoiced in the Lord for having miraculously saved our lives and now for providing me with an opportunity to become a nurse. The Lord is really 'Jehovah Jirah' (the Lord who provides)."

Final thoughts

Swaroopa’s story is both touching and uplifting. It demonstrates the reality of persecution that Christians often have to suffer, particularly in non-Western countries, simply for their faith. Despite their hardship, Swaroopa and her family did not renounce their faith but trusted in the Lord. Their faith was rewarded, for in their darkest hours they saw the Lord guiding them. They came out of the experience with their faith strengthened, not weakened.

Anti-Christian hatred is nothing new. From New Testament times to the present day Christians have had to suffer for bearing witness to Christ. Jesus warned his disciples that this would be the case, but those who persevered would be rewarded in heaven. We too must heed this message. Do not cower and renounce your faith, even if you are persecuted, but boldly witness to Christ. That way you show your fidelity and love of Christ, for which you will be rewarded.


Amrita said...

Dear JL I am impressed by your well worded and superb comments on Man on the move blog.
You have the gift of writing an d I am following your blog. I have a feeling I have visited your blog before , but I am not sure. God bless you

Have you rea d book by Ravi Zacharais?

JI said...

Hi Amrita,

I have watched videos of Ravi Zacharias on YouTube but I haven't yet read any of his books. I do aim to do so.

Dinesh D'Souza is another good Christian apologist.

Thank you for your visit.

Best wishes,

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JL:)

In India Christians are just 3 percent of the population and the Muslims are another 3 percent.The rest 94 percent are Hindus. The founding fathers laid down religious freedom in the constitution.For some years everything was quite on the religious front.

But after BJP came to power they were determined to establish a Hindu state and the immediate object of their attack were Christians because Christians were already in the forefront in the fields of education,medical facilities etc.They were also quite annoyed because Sonia was from a Christian country although she denies she is a Christian.

The sister fanatical outfits of BJP like Bajrang Dal,RSS, went all out to attack Christians and some chief minister of states like Orissa,Gujarat and Madhya pradesh were silent supporters of the attack. There was a nun who was raped right in front of the police and the Hindu goondas badly beat up the priest who objected.

Graham Staines and his children were burned in their van by the Bajrang Dal activists because he was suspected of converting Hindus to Christianity.

Church in India has become soft as in the case of Prof.Joseph who was dismissed from service by the Christian college management.

Yet I know many educated people go to the interior of backward villages to work and preach the message of Christ.All this is done quietly and surreptitiously.

Your story is indeed inspiring and reveals the true state of affairs in India as far as Christianity is concerned.

Best wishes:)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JL:)

As regards your comment in my blog on Stephen Hawkins,I think this man deserves much credit for his great work. But the problem with him is that he is making a cheap publicity stunt for increasing the sales of his new book.The more controversy the more books will be sold.

Every time a movie is being released in India a scandal between the stars will be floated and the news papers will make big headlines out of it.In this way the movie gets great publicity and it becomes a box office hit.

Perhaps,Hawkins has reached such great heights in the field of his study that he feels he knows everything that is to be known and therefore he is more than God.Hence he wants to denigrate God by making preposterous claims. He reminds me of Dr.Faustus by Marlowe.I think Hawkins has sold his soul to the devil.

Best wishes:)

Amrita said...

Swaroopa receive holp but there are still hundreds who have to be rehabilitated, there are news reports about them. We should no t forget them

JI said...

Hi Joseph,

Interesting comments.

There is a lot of discrimination to Christian minorities in many countries today. The worst places are Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. Then there are communist countries like North Korea. Sadly India too has seen a rise in anti-Christian activity in recent decades. I think in India most of the animosity comes from upper caste Hindus opposed to the activities of the church.

Jesus did say to his followers they would face difficulties simply for being his followers. Because his disciples believed in Jesus, that he was the risen Lord, they were prepared to go out to the world and proclaim the good news. We too can take inspiration from them.

Yes, I'm sure Stephen Hawking is trying to create a bit of a controversy in order to sell his book. However, this is one common theory - multiple universes - that atheist scientists are trying to push today. Quite extraordinary!

Best wishes,

JI said...

Yes Amrita, I agree. Still there are many people who haven't received any help. The law has also failed to punish the guilty. Let’s hope and pray they will find peace.