India is on track to beat China as the country with the highest population by 2050, with the majority of that population being Hindu with a strong national identity. This leads to widespread persecution of Christians and Muslims from Hindus who want to “purify” their country. Still, the Muslim population greatly outnumbers Christians and is projected to grow, so we can only expect greater persecution of the Church from all angles.
Total Population: 1.3 billion
Christian population: 68.8 million
Muslim population: 172 million
Religion in India
After looking at the basic population breakdown between Muslims and Christians in India, it is important to realize that when we say 15% of India’s population is Muslim, that is 172 million people. The Christian population only makes up 2% of India’s population, leaving them vulnerable to persecution. It is also important to note that of the 2% of the population that is call themselves Christian, the largest portion is Roman Catholic.
Within the caste system in India, 74% of Christians are in the lowest castes. Only the Hindus who are in the lowest castes receive government benefits and support. This means that the number of Christians and Muslims in the Indian population may be underreported, because not all non-Hindus in the lowest caste will report their true religion so they can receive government support.
If a Hindu converts to a different religion and others find out, they are put in the lowest caste, which makes it even harder for the Church to grow. In fact, it is illegal to proselytize to (try to convert) a Hindu, so it is extremely dangerous for a Christian to share their faith.
The power of Hinduism in India
As we said in the beginning, the Hindu population is extremely nationalistic and strives to “purify” their country of Christians and other religious minorities– this includes Muslims! A recent example is what happened during COVID-19; Christians were overlooked when distributing aid in an attempt to thin out the Christian population.
Social media has been used as a tool for persecution as well. Christians who are persecuted will have their phones taken away so that they can’t spread the word about their mistreatment. At the same time, the Hindus who persecute Christians will film the attacks and spread it using hateful propaganda to try to incite more violence against the Church.
The biggest source of persecution is the extremely nationalistic Hindu party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in many Indian states. The BJP believes that there is no distinction between Hinduism and being Indian, so being Indian and NOT Hindu is unacceptable.
Women in India (Pew Research)
The treatment of women in India is mostly oppressive because of the large populations of Hindus and Muslims. A traditional Hindu or Muslim marriage consists of a woman who is given to a man by her parents, with a dowry, and who is expected to treat her husband like a god. Unfortunately the practice of dowry-giving has often been manipulated to try to garner a larger dowry from the bride’s family by abusing or torturing the bride until her family pays a larger sum of money.
It is no surprise that traditionally, there has been a “son preference” within Indian families, where the sons are given more preferential treatment and rights than a daughter.
Women in India are at a high risk of violence and abuse, whether it is sexual or physical abuse in a marriage, or even the practice of child marriage. India has always been known as an unsafe place for women, and the risk only increases if the woman is not a Hindu.
How to pray for India
Despite all of the persecution in India against the Church, the love of Christ continues to draw new believers. We must pray for our brothers and sisters to continue strong in the fight, and for the country of India to be transformed.
Let us pray for:
- More rights for religious minority groups.
- The Church to be able to grow despite the violence against Christians.
- Indian women and girls to find refuge and love in the Church.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party to lose its power in India.
- Hindus and Muslims alike to come to know the love of Christ!