While I frequently speak of the unwarranted bigotry against people of faith in this nation, a recent instance in India has brought to life the severe environment in which many Christians live across the globe.
Several weeks ago, Liberty University alumnus Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Emmanuel Mission International, the indigenous mission partner of Hopegivers International, was arrested and jailed for several weeks by shadow law enforcement figures in the state of Rajasthan. He was apparently arrested over a book he had distributed that allegedly contains derogatory references to Hindu deities.
Hopegivers, founded by Dr. Thomas’ father, Dr. M.A. Thomas, is a charity reaching out to desperately poor and oppressed people, offering them hope through expressions of love. The organization reaches out to abandoned, fatherless children, HIV victims, people with leprosy, single mothers, widows and victims of natural and man-made disasters.
During his imprisonment, the financial accounts of Hopegivers International were frozen and other organization officials were arrested, seriously crippling its outreach.
Thankfully, Dr. Thomas was freed a few weeks ago. And just this week, I learned that the High Court in Jaipur handed down rulings revoking a series of injunctions that had crippled the humanitarian and educational outreaches of Hopegivers. For now, the Bible school and seminary in Kota had reopened and students were returning to begin classes.
On Aug. 8, in a separate judgment, the court then granted relief from bureaucratic restrictions that had frozen bank accounts and prevented Christians from operating Hope Home orphanages, schools, a hospital and other institutions in the state.
“Glory to God!” exclaimed Dr. Thomas. “That’s all I can say.”
Lawyers who are representing the ministry say that the criminal and civil cases have not yet been fully discharged. The legal process will continue while the missions resume full operations, but the High Court rulings are seen as a sign that the case is moving in favor of the Thomases and the ministries of Emmanuel and Hopegivers.
“The lawyers are still working on the cases,” said Dr. Thomas, “but meanwhile we have the right to go back to work; the registrations have been restored and our bank accounts are unfrozen. The government observers will have to leave all of our campuses and properties.”
He added, “All things can return to the way they were back in January. This is truly a result of the prayers of Christians around the world.”
Dr. Thomas is asking Christians to continue praying for the safety of his family and employees of the ministry, while also praying that the cases against the ministry and personnel will be dismissed.
Voice of the Martyrs, which reports on abuses of Christians worldwide, says hundreds of men and women are in prison serving sentences that range from a few months to life. They are not criminals who have robbed or murdered other citizens, but Christians who were put on trial for their faith in Christ and found guilty. They could have avoided prison by simply denying allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are literally “doing time for God.”
Suffering for Christ has indeed become a way of life for many Christians. They must meet in secret house churches to avoid arrest. Just this week, the organization reported on a militant Muslim group that hired four drivers to crash buses into the vehicle of a Christian who was traveling to visit 17 Muslim convert families. The driver was seriously injured. Voice of the Martyrs is providing medical treatment for this man, “who was attacked for his Christian witness.”
These types of stories are prevalent worldwide. While we in America continue to fight to retain our religious freedoms, which are continually under attack, we must bear in mind that our fellow believers are often being arrested, tormented or even killed solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ. May we not forget these brothers and sisters in our prayers and in our financial support as they seek to live out their faith in perilous circumstances.