India (MNN) ― August marks the three-year anniversary of the arrest of two Children’s Bible Club leaders in Karnataka on false charges.
Late one night in 2009, a mob of 20 Hindu extremists burst into a training for Year-Long Children’s Bible Club leaders working through Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. Shouting threats, they moved from room to room. The extremists dragged people out of bed, beat them mercilessly, and burned every book and Bible they could find.
When police finally arrived, they arrested two Children’s Bible Club partners and charged them with coercing children to become Christians. Mission India President Dave Stravers says, “There’s no basis for the charge. They were actually sound asleep in the middle of the night. It’s during a training session, (but) there weren’t even any non-Christians involved, so how could they be converting anyone?”
The pair is out on bail…and STILL awaiting trial. “This is normal. They claim there is a 20-year backlog in the Delhi court system, for instance,” Stravers reports. The United Nations Development Program estimates that some 20 million legal cases are pending in India. the country has roughly 11 judges for every million people, so the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” (hope for an end) isn’t likely coming soon.
The problem is the expectation of those who are awaiting their day in court. Stravers explains, “Every month, they get on the train [for a] 12-hour train ride, sit all day in the court, and be told. ‘No, no progress. A new date has been set.'” That’s added expense and time lost to travel back and forth.
While the delay may be “normal” in Delhi, Stravers wonders if the “dragging feet” could be because “judges and the accusers know that there is no case, so if the case actually comes to trial, all the charges will be dismissed. So they want to drag it out as long as possible to make life as difficult as possible.”
The case is at a standstill in the courts. The most recent court date was postponed until September 21. It’s harassment, pure and simple, Stravers argues.
However, it also revealed an indomitable spirit. “These people are still working hard, training Children’s Bible Club leaders. We have a long list of Christian workers who are waiting to be trained.” In fact, Karnataka State is one of Mission India’s biggest fields of ministry.
Why do the extremist Hindus oppose the Children’s Bible Clubs? First, explains Stravers, “God is working. And this is why the persecution is happening, because the general population is so open to the Gospel and the Lord Jesus is doing His work in a really powerful way in India today.”
Mission India provides in-depth training for volunteer Children’s Bible Club leaders as well as materials to teach up to five age levels in nearly two dozen Indian languages.
The Children’s Bible Clubs are introduced in a community through a 10-day program. In the clubs, children enjoy songs, skits, and play games. They also listen to Bible stories, memorize Scripture, and learn more about relationship with Jesus, which helps them discover a loving Savior.
So, Stravers says, by the end of the Children’s Bible Club, many children make a decision to follow Jesus. They then share their new faith and are bringing their parents to Christ. As a result, every year new churches grow out of Children’s Bible Clubs.
As far as their two workers go, the danger of this case is that it’s a distraction. “We need to pray that the Lord will be faithful to them, that they’ll feel the Lord’s hand of protection. And when the persecution comes, [pray that] they will understand that this is not the devil winning any battles, [that] they need to keep speaking boldly for Christ.”
Pray that there will be no further delays in the courts. Pray that the false charges will be dropped. Pray for the safety of this year’s Year-Long Children’s Bible Club leaders who are being trained right now across India.
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Source: Mission Network News, International Christian Concern