Situated in South Asia with the Himalayan mountains in the north and the Indian Ocean to the south, India shares borders with several countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Pakistan. India has the second largest population in the world, with just over 1.2 billion people, though its total land mass is roughly the size of one-third of the United States.
India is one of the most spiritual places in the world. Four religions originated there, and it has followers from nearly every major world religion. Small numbers of Sikhs, Jains, Muslims, and Christians live in India, but Hindus make up 80 percent of the population. For many people, to be truly Indian is to be Hindu.
India is well known for its incredible diversity with 1,469 different people groups and over 200 languages. Often people living extreme poverty and immaculate wealth can be found in the same city. Indians can be found in any number of jobs from street vendors, rickshaw drivers, rural farmers, business executives and everything in between.
A myriad of bold colors found in fabrics, architecture, and spices create the beautiful mosaic that is India. Women wear colorful saris and salwar kameez suits while men can be found in an array of bright turbans or pure white dhotis. The people of India take pride in the plethora of spices that characterize most Indian cuisine.
Christians make up only 2.2 percent of the population of India. In the 1960s the government began to pass Freedom of Religion Acts, commonly known as anti-conversion laws. A new Hindu government rose to power in 2014 and has tightened laws that discriminate against converts to Christianity, especially those from a Hindu background. In recent years, fundamentalist Hindus have heavily influenced government at the top level, including the current Prime Minster.
Open Doors ranks India as 17th on the World Watch List for Christian persecution. Believers face persecution from the government, radical religious groups, their communities and sometimes their families. It is not uncommon for Christians to face beatings because of conversions, and sometimes Christians are killed for their faith.
Despite these challenges, the church continues to grow in India and church leaders have frequent opportunities for training. Believers in India could face tighter restrictions and more persecution in the coming years as the government cracks down on conversions. Indian Christians will need the support of the global church to continue to be bold in their faith no matter the cost.