“What is this world coming to?”

We’ve all heard folks, usually of the older variety, voicing this question, born of concern and perplexity. In the past, the concern has been about deteriorating tastes, subject matter in movies, social mores and the like. And usually, with a shake of the head or a “tsk tsk,” the speaker moves on to other things.

Well, the question appears more timely than ever and deserves to be addressed to even more serious issues – like genocide, wholesale slaughter of innocents, and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities around the world.

The list grows alarmingly long: Rwanda, the Sudan, Bosnia. Recently there was Ireland, China and Haiti. Somehow endlessly, the Middle East. And now, most atrociously, India.

Yes, India, the second most populist nation in the world, moving swiftly into prominence in the 21st century. India, new leaders in almost all technology and engineering; where your phone call asking for tech support or product delivery may be answered; where an automobile that runs on compressed air reportedly has been built and will be marketed. India, where in April a successful space launch expanded the nation’s importance in the solar system.

But also India, where, also in April, a 6-year-old Dalit (untouchable) girl was thrown into a roaring fire about 40 km from the temple town of Mathura and burned alive. The little girl was accused of the dastardly crime of walking through the footpath meant for only the upper castes, on the very day those “upper caste” people were exulting over India’s successful new satellite launch – another devastating indictment of mankind.

It seems just unthinkable, rationally impossible, that these two vastly contradicting events could happen, in the same month, in the same country, and in the 21st century. But wait; you haven’t heard the worst, not by a very long shot.

While the upper caste elite in India is celebrating the technological progress going on in the major cities, mass slaughter and bestial genocide is raging in the “less modern” provinces of the huge country. India is considered a Hindu nation, in much the same way Arab states are Muslim and England and the U.S. are Christian. And most Indian citizens, while practicing their various faiths benignly, profess tolerance toward fellow citizens who may be different religiously. But shockingly, in this “modern” world, India is still committed to an ages old caste system, in which upper castes enjoy freedom and all contemporary advances, while over 300 million human beings who happen to have been born in India are considered “untouchable” and unworthy of anything more than bare existence and that grudgingly.

These people, this entire caste, are called Dalits. The Hindu scriptures refer to them as “the unborn,” meaning it would be better for the world if they had never been born. They’re literal outcasts, denied access to public wells, parks, basic medical services, and education. Though born in India, their homeland, they’ve had the misfortune to be born to Dalit parents and a whole class created long ago by Aryan invaders. In India, there is no way out, or up, from this bottom rung of society.

Dalits are trapped, imprisoned, faceless, and nameless, and of no concern to the upper classes, except as bondservants, menial employees, and burden bearers. They are considered to have been evil in a former life, and therefore justly banished to this humiliation. Their only hope is to accept their fate and somehow earn a “step up” in a future reincarnation.

I met with a young Dalit in my office just recently. He’s a fine, good looking, very intelligent young man named Jyothi. He loves his country, his people and his God. He’s a Christian.

Yes, in Hindu India, at least 2.5 percent are officially Christian, and some 11 percent, though cowed by public pressure and physical threat, are “unofficially” Christian. And 75 percent of the Christians are Dalits. And why not? A ray of hope, of freedom, of personal worth has been offered them by a loving God, through Jesus and his representatives.

Jyothi is one young “untouchable” who knows he has been touched by the living God.

Though Jyothi knows he’s risking his very life, he is committed to changing things socially and religiously in India. One young guy, seemingly trapped on the bottom rung with no way up, his Christian faith has inspired a vision for a truly democratic nation of 1.1 billion people.

He burns with a fervent urgency, because world news sources are reporting atrocities in India worthy of Hitler’s ovens in Nazi Germany and Idi Amin’s bloody ravages in Uganda. Christian missions in at least 4 giant states – Orissa, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh – are denied the right to practice their faith in any way that might tend to “convert” these lowly, forsaken people to Christianity. This would include, in many cases, just simple humanitarian aid.

Right now, Orissa seems the hotbed of violence at its horrific worst. In one Catholic orphanage, bloodthirsty mobs locked up a priest and a computer teacher in a house and burned it down. Many believers in Christ have been hacked to pieces and left on the road, mirroring the carnage in Rwanda. More than 5,000 Christian Dalit families have had their homes burned or destroyed. Though some police have tried to stem the violence, at least warning Christians at the last minute, they’ve only enabled the victims to escape with their lives, but nothing else to their names.

This war on Christians is escalating, and those of us who believe in the God of the Bible need to pray fervently that he will shield and deliver them. We need to pray and ask others to intercede with anybody we might know with influence either on our leaders, or even on the leaders in India. It’s terribly ironic that the Indian Constitution actually guarantees religious liberties to all its citizens – and that the man called the “Father of the Constitution” was himself a lowly, but English-educated, Dalit!

In India, and in our own upcoming election, leaders are needed who will adhere to the dictates of our constitutions and enforce them for the good of all.

What’s the world coming to? A crossroads. One leads to a moral and democratic society; the other to an inhumane, relativistic, dog-eat-dog, immoral jungle. As I said, it’s time to pray.

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