Republic of India - Capital: DelhiArea: 3,166,000 sq km
A further 121,000 sq km of Kashmir, a contested area, is administered by Pakistan and China. Geographically and politically, India dominates South Asia and the Indian Ocean. There are 28 Union States and 7 Union Territories.
Population: 1,214,464,312 Annual Growth: 1.44% Urbanites: 30.1%
Peoples: 2,533 (88% unreached)Official language: Constitutionally there are 22 official languages. The official language is Hindi (spoken by 40% of the population). English is a subsidiary official language.
Challenges for Prayer
India has more human need than any other nation – largely by virtue of its massive population, but also due to many areas of suffering that must be addressed through considered action and sustained prayer.
a) Poverty affects hundreds of millions, often as utter destitution that is far below any arbitrary income level mathematically calculated by international bodies. Recent economic liberalization and initiatives to assist the poorest communities will help India move further in the right direction to significantly reduce poverty.
i Poverty is predominantly rural, despite increasing urbanization. While the growing urban slums of large cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata are well publicized and contain around 75 million people, India remains predominantly a rural nation, and it is in the villages where most of the poor live.
ii Caste issues are closely tied to poverty. Most of India’s poorest are from the Dalit/Bahujan/Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, many of them surviving as landless farm labourers. Their landlessness and lack of guaranteed income often lead to debt slavery, which is passed down through generations. Pray for these peoples – may they see God’s justice and love demonstrated to them.
iii There is a complex relationship between poverty and overpopulation. Children are seen by many as future guarantors of assistance and income – the more, the better. India’s population issues and poverty issues need to be tackled in tandem.
b) Health concerns affect huge swathes of India’s population. Around 40% of children under age three suffer from malnutrition, since inadequate sanitation and lack of clean water multiply the waterborne diseases that impact mostly children and the poor. In India, an estimated 900,000 people per year die as a result of drinking unclean water or breathing polluted air. The health sector is overstretched, under-resourced and prone to corruption. India has the world’s third-largest HIV-positive population and accounts for one-third of the world’s tuberculosis cases. Excellent healthcare and medical training were two of Christianity’s finest contributions to India; these are under threat due to Christian emigration/brain drain. Pray that this important legacy might be preserved.
c) Women and children suffer disproportionately.
i Children in crisis – no country can rival India’s staggering need. Of India’s 400 million children under 15 years old, possibly up to 35 million are orphans. Eleven million are abandoned (90% girls); three million live on the street. There are 20 million child labourers (including many instances of bond slavery to pay family debts) – some estimates claim 50 million. Up to two-thirds of children suffer physical abuse, and one-half some kind of sexual harassment or abuse. Over 1.2 million children are involved in prostitution; many of them are Nepali or Bangladeshi.
ii Women and girls. Lower literacy and education rates, the dowry tradition, widespread domestic abuse and the evil tradition of temple prostitution all cry out for action. Society’s preference for boys, combined with the illegal application of ultrasound technology, leads to selective abortion of girls and to female infanticide. A female population deficit of 35 million – and growing – compared to the male population demonstrates the severity of the situation.
- Pray that these desperate needs may be addressed through loving Christian ministries and state structures. Pray that attitudes and practices in society, especially toward those most vulnerable, might be changed to reflect God's care for women and children.
d) Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religious system.
1) Hinduism, most broadly understood, is a civilizational dynamic incorporating every aspect of life, embracing those who live in or identify with India and its culture. As a religion, it is a pluralistic network of religious beliefs and systems ranging from the philosophical (self-realization), to Vedic-influenced rituals, to popular expression (idols), to village Hinduism (animism, occultism). It absorbs elements of any religion it encounters and is widely regarded as an inclusive religion, one of tolerance and peace.
2) Hinduism global influence is significant through movements such as yoga, Hare Krishna, New Age, Art of Living and others. Many concepts of Hinduism have become part of 21st Century postmodern culture – yoga, gurus, karma, dharma, reincarnation and transcendental meditation.
3) Hinduism has strong cultural appeal, yet in their search for fulfilment and purpose, Hindus still long for true communion with the Creator. Pray that Christians (considered as “Western”) may demonstrate, in authentic Indian cultural expressions, true spirituality and the transformation Christ brings.
4) The Hindu caste system remains a major issue. It has been only partly addressed through constitutional equality, the legal ban on discrimination and affirmative action favouring the underprivileged in education and government jobs. The rising demands by Dalits for their constitutional rights and for a share in the land and wealth of the country, and by tribals for protection of their ancestral lands and ways, are often met by obstruction, intimidation and repression.
How can we pray? - Pray that:
i The government may wisely handle the realities of casteism and the impoverishment of a large percentage of the population. This includes dealing firmly with violence against Dalit and tribal communities and applying affirmative action to all Dalits, irrespective of their religion.
ii The Christian response may be both biblical and Christlike, ministering to all oppressed people while rooting out casteism within its own ranks. About 80% of all Christians are of Dalit or tribal communities, and the average Hindu associates Christianity with the underclasses of their society.
iii The churches. Pray that in their outreach they may be sensitive to the caste networks and facilitate people movements to Christ, and that in their fellowship they may work toward elimination of the dividing walls of society. Many churches are themselves guilty of caste-based discrimination.
iv Communal violence might end, and its instigators repent and find Christ.
v The “re-conversion” programme of Hindu extremists might not succeed and that threatened Christians may stand firm in Christ whatever the cost.
iv Christians may show the love and forgiveness of Christ to their persecutors.