I made several mission trips to India in the decade of the 1980s. It has always amazed me that so many people in the West do not recognize that the world’s largest democracy is India. Great progress has been made in both human rights and economic development in India, especially over the last two decades. I thank God for this progress. The church in India continues to grow in many states while it struggles under persecution in other states. Christians should pray for their brothers and sisters in India. We should also pray for the nation as it deals with many injustices that trouble ordinary people with life and death consequences.
One of India’s most troubling problems is the way women are still treated. This seems particularly odd given the fact that India has had strong women become political leaders. But the fact remains that in much of India women are second-class people. One evidence of this is the practice of “honor killings.” An honor killing occurs when a woman disgraces her family by getting pregnant out of wedlock or by marrying outside her caste. The murder of women, often by men from their own family, is rising in modern India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a commission to consider tougher sentences for honor killings in the wake of a recent public outcry over intrafamily murders.
In April a high profile case involved a woman who was found suffocated to death after she told her family that she was pregnant and engaged to marry a man from a lower caste. In five cases, during a single week in the month of June, both members of the offending couple were killed. In many instances village councils knew of, or even ordered, the murders. The commission has been given the task of finding ways to punish council members who condone honor killings.
Let us pray for these concerns in India. Christians are caught in the crossfire of these tensions as much as any group of people. Their rights are as tenuous as anyone’s. The long term solution is for the gospel of grace to penetrate the hearts and minds of many Indian leaders. The gospel, like no other message, exalts women to real equality before God and the law.
I still recall an incident regarding women in India that I encountered on one of my trips to India in the 1980s. I had to gently and earnestly remonstrate with my Indian brothers about some of their cultural practices regarding women and marriage. Their practices denied the very power of the gospel to liberate women from oppression and the patriarchal practices that were demeaning of their oneness with men in Jesus Christ. This may not seem that important to us, when we live in a society where women have made such huge strides, but in India it is still a matter of life and death. Pray that this truth of the grace of God will touch both Christians and official leaders in India.