Anti-Christian Violence Fails to Halt Celebration.
By: John M. Lindner
Special to ASSIST News Service
KOTA, RAJASTHAN (ANS) -- Emmanuel Ministries of Kota, Rajasthan, today graduated 5,000 Bible school students, much to the chagrin of hard-line Hindus.Most of the graduates are from the Dalit community and have already accepted assignments among the Dalit--or “untouchable”--villages throughout India. According to Dr. Samuel Thomas, President and International Director for Emmanuel Ministries International (EMI), they will bring the message of Christ to the outcasts of India, transforming them into vibrant communities of faith, and prompting even more young men and women to joyously enter the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
His father, Dr. M.A. Thomas, came originally from Kerala to Rajasthan after graduating from Hindustan Bible College in 1960 and pioneered a work in Kota, then a city virtually without a witness for Christ. Enduring much hardship, persecution, the martyrdom of several coworkers, and the death of his beloved wife in 1995, Thomas persevered, counting it a privilege to suffer for the Lord Jesus. Today, he and those he has trained and sent out have planted 11,113 churches throughout India.
The secret of his success was to gladly accept the offscouring of the world—the orphans and children of lepers—and train them to be missionaries. His goal is to take in a million orphans—and he has already received a government permit to do so—and transform them into an army of messengers of the gospel. EMI so far operates 87 children’s homes caring for some 8,900 children, including 2,200 in Kota. Some are true orphans, but most of these are semi-orphans, whose mother or father has died or abandoned or rejected them. Others are children of leprous parents who have gladly surrendered them to Thomas to raise in his children’s homes so they will not contract the disease by remaining in the community of lepers. These will be transformed into vibrant messengers of the gospel and healthy participants in Indian society.
That is what disturbs the right-wing, hard-line Hindus. Members of the RSS (Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh, meaning National Volunteer Movement), a radical anti-Christian Hindu organization, did their best to halt or hinder the grandiose celebration here this weekend.
S.M.J. Rao, EMI Secretary, told ANS members of the RSS met a train at the Kota railway station on February 19, and took about 270 pastors, believers and Bible students coming for the meeting to a Hindu temple. There they were interrogated, beaten and told, “Leave here, or we will kill you.”
According to Rao, the Christians were then taken to the police station where they were beaten with iron rods and bicycle chains. M.A. Thomas and members of the EMI staff were forbidden to see the captives or bring them food.
After being held hostage for 18 hours they were put back onto a train headed south and told to go back to where they came from. However, nine hours into the return journey, railway officials forced them off the train because they did not have tickets. EMI was making alternate arrangements to help the stranded believers.
Next, a band of 60 to 70 demonstrators from the Bajrang Dal tried to stop busloads of 600 believers from reaching the convention site. The Bajrang Dal is believed to have been the group behind the burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa State in 1999. The police escorting the buses did nothing to halt the demonstrations until some protestors began hurling rocks at the police. Then the police charged the demonstrators with their night sticks and disbursed the crowd.
Meanwhile, Samuel Thomas contacted officials in Delhi to bring order to the situation. Finally, after the federal authorities intervened, those traveling to the meeting were allowed to complete their journey unmolested, and the meetings were held without further incident.
Meeting with authorities, M.A. Thomas gave assurance that no “conversions” (i.e. baptisms) would take place, and he agreed with demands by the RSS that American visitors, who numbered about 100, would not preach at the religious gathering. They did, however, speak encouraging words to the graduates.
Though about 5,000 graduates received their diplomas and certificates Saturday night, Dr. Thomas said as many as 6,000 would have been there had not some turned back because of the violence.
At the commissioning service Sunday morning, Dr. Thomas told the graduates that natural children are not born without pain or tribulation, and said if they wanted spiritual children, they must be willing to bear pain and suffering of childbirth, and even martyrdom. Virtually every student stood and shouted “hallelujah!”