Climbing higher each year on the World Watch List from Open Doors USA is the Hindu nation of India, where The Tide® global radio ministry has been broadcasting Gospel programming since 1978. In fact, of the four nations on the 2018 World Watch List where The Tide reaches believers, India is the highest at No. 11.
For more than 70 years, our ministry has shared the hope of Christ worldwide, but over the past several years, more and more desperately need that hope as they face persecution in their home countries—simply for trusting in Jesus.
It's been extremely discouraging to see India continue its trend of climbing higher on this list for Christian persecution. Most of us in America will never know trepidation for stepping outside with our Bibles in hand or fear being baptized in a public place. Yet these are realities for Christians in India and many other countries around the world. We pray daily for the pastors, radio broadcasters and Christians in these areas where persecution for their beliefs is often an everyday occurrence.
In India, which falls under the "extreme persecution" category on the World Watch List, most of the persecution for Christians comes from a variety of Hindu radical groups and organizations, according to Open Doors. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end. Usually, converts to Christianity experience the worst persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism.
Even in the face of this persecution, however, The Tide helps pastors baptize new believers in regions throughout India, although locals have reported to us that "it is very hard to conduct any meeting. There is opposition and threats to hold any meeting."
It seems as though the danger is escalating. A new report in The Christian Post found that as Christian persecution continues to rise in India under the governance of a Hindu nationalist party, an evangelical group described 2017 as "one of the most traumatic for the Christian community" in 10 years.
With these challenges for believers in India, there is so much more work to do. India has a population of over 1.3 billion people, and of the 2,295 people groups there, about 2,000 are still considered unreached with the Gospel. Of these people, the large majority Hindu, just about 2 percent professes to be Christians. That means there are still over 1.2 billion people in India who don't yet know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior! And the fact that those who do believe in Christ are experiencing persecution gives us all the more reason to pray for our brothers and sisters there.
Back in 1978, The Tide ministry began using radio broadcasts to share the Gospel throughout India. We've grown from a single Hindi language broadcast to include radio programs in eight Indian languages, and plans are underway to reach even more people groups in the future. These programs are produced in The Tide ministry's studio in India using indigenous ministers who can effectively communicate the message of Christ to people in their own language rather than hear an English translation.
Rajesh is a regular listener to the "Aap Ke Liye" and "Shanti Data" radio programs in India.
"I am 36 years old and belong to a non-Christian family of Odisha," Rajesh shared. "I was an alcoholic, but after listening to the radio programs and the word of God, my life has been changed. In my family, I am the only one who believes in the Lord, and because of that there are threats to attack me and kill me. It seems my own family is involved in this, but when I listen to the word of God, I am very much blessed and encouraged. Pray for me that I would leave the bad company of friends and would trust and follow the Lord."
Bunu also shared that "After listening to your 'Ehpa Gatanju' radio program, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Your messages are very interesting and heart-touching. It attracts others to listen to it and know more about Jesus Christ, and I believe many will be blessed by listening to the program."
Rajesh and Bunu are not alone, both in the respect that many others have been impacted by Gospel radio programs and that many may also be persecuted for their new beliefs.
India is also not the only nation where Christians are persecuted for their faith in Christ. The World Watch List annually lists the 50 countries where persecution is most prevalent. Many of our listeners inhabit regions where there are serious repercussions for turning to Christ, as 22 of The Tide heart language radio programs reach people living in four countries on this year's list, such as Nigeria, Nepal and Bhutan, along with India.
In India, our partners who work to disciple the radio listeners are in danger as well, as they build relationships and counsel those who, despite the risk, are responding to the Gospel message. "The Good News Hour," our partner ministry in India, Bhutan and Nepal, has adapted by developing an expanding network of local pastors and trained village workers to follow up with listeners.
To gain greater access into Hindu strongholds, "The Good News Hour" has also significantly expanded the amount of compassion-type ministry activities and social work it offers, and now engages in adult literacy, child education, seed distribution, plantation and gardening, village cleaning and sanitation, medical camps and health awareness, hygiene and sports. All this, provided in the name of Christ, reinforces and adds impact to the Gospel message people are hearing on the radio.
Jesus warned that it would not always be easy to follow Him, and that his disciples will face opposition, discrimination, arrest and other forms of oppression. Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit will give strength to endure for those who remain faithful in all circumstances and will enable us to shine for Him in dark situations.
We praise God for the commitment and tenacity of The Tide radio pastors and discipleship workers who faithfully persevere in sharing the Gospel. And we ask that you join us to pray fervently for Christians and new believers in areas where violent opposition to their faith is often an everyday occurrence.