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All over the world, Christians are persecuted for their faith. Some are jailed for meeting in non-state-sanctioned house churches; some are beaten because they dare to express faith in Jesus Christ; some are beaten and killed when they refuse to renounce their faith in Christ.
On March 16, the president of Hopegivers International of India, Samuel Thomas, a Liberty University alumnus and native of India, experienced firsthand the potential implication of his faith in Jesus Christ when he was met by 12 armed men claiming to be policemen, handcuffed and arrested. He remains in custody.
Since Samuel’s arrest, appeals for his release on bail have been repeatedly delayed or denied by local authorities in Kota, Rajasthan. Moreover, he was originally imprisoned in the same cell with multiple members of the very militant group that has been threatening his and his father’s lives.
Compass Direct now reports that a court in Rajasthan has ordered the safekeeping of Samuel in a cell separate from the Hindu extremists who were plotting to assault or kill him. This action was in response to pressure from the All India Christian Council and the New Delhi Human Rights Commission.
Samuel and his father, Bishop M.A. Thomas, run the Hopegivers International children’s charity. The charity is responsible for saving thousands of children from the streets of New Delhi and other cities. M.A. Thomas has been in hiding for some time because he has also been targeted by the extremists, with one anti-Christian militant offering a bounty of $26,000 for his head.
Prior to Samuel’s arrest, two other Hopegivers officials were arrested and held for weeks without charge.
Since Samuel’s arrest, an international prayer chain has been initiated, with Christians joining together to pray for this man’s release.
“Pray for our ongoing efforts to negotiate the release of Dr. Thomas,” said Hopegivers Executive Director Michael Glenn. “His leadership is urgently needed at the Hope Home orphanages and hospital we support in Kota. The longer this harassment goes on, the more the welfare of the children and patients will suffer.”
Since his arrest several weeks ago, lawyers for the Emmanuel Mission International have been questioning the legitimacy of the vague charges filed against Samuel for causing “communal disharmony.” EMI is the indigenous partner in India for Hopegivers International. His arrest and the ongoing threats targeting EMI are bringing worldwide condemnation from advocates of human rights.
“This is a blatant denial of freedom of speech and religion,” said Mr. Glenn, “and goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Indian constitution.”
The prayer chain has spread to the Liberty University campus, where hundreds of students have formed a prayer vigil. On the tenth day of Samuel’s imprisonment, a large group of these student intercessors gathered for prayer to ask God’s protection on His servant. This prayer vigil lasted several hours and included dozens of students who have participated in Liberty sponsored missions campaigns in South Asia.
Samuel Thomas’ recent arrest and the fugitive status assigned to his father are just two recent examples of the ever increasing and targeted attack on Christians in Southeast Asia.
Liberty University has joined with Hopegivers International in calling for increased awareness and prayer for those enduring this level of persecution in the least-reached places on our planet.
I urge my readers to join with us to pray specifically for Bishop M.A. Thomas and Dr. Samuel Thomas. These dear men of faith are paying a steep price for their relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am sure, however, that, like the Apostle Paul, each man would say with the Apostle Paul who said in his Epistle to the Philippians (1:29-30): “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (NKJV).