In an off-the-cuff speech a while ago I tried to describe "The Daunting Task of Hinduism." (See pages 16-18). Reading that talk in transcription, I realize that I painted the picture daunting all right. You can see for yourself why India and its massive Hindu stronghold is, in my mind, literally besieged by the demonic. No question, India is the single most daunting task remaining for the missionary movement.
What's Good in India However! In that short talk it was hard to provide balance. The USA itself is also bedeviled in many ways. India has many strengths. It is the world's largest democracy, and one of the most stable. In an international survey the top two of the world's most competent software companies were in India!
A number of its states have as high or higher a percentage of Christians than you find in any other political entity in the world-- see below
You sense a great deal of British(?) wisdom, discipline, sobriety. I recall graduate students from India (back in the early fifties) saying that India really lost something with the departure of the relatively incorruptible British district commissioners. At the time of the British withdrawal from India, 90% of all nurses in India were Christians. Fifty years later it is still half, although the Christian percentage of India's population is less than 5%.
India still has many problems to combat. Along with China, India struggles with rampant female abortion and infanticide. A study of 14,000 aborted fetuses turned up only one male fetus. The burning of young brides, which you read about on page 9, is reported to happen over a dozen times a month in New Delhi.
In virtually all cultures marriage tears either the boy or the girl out of the security of their own family. In most of India it is not the boy who "leaves his father and mother" but the girl. She leaves her family to become part of his--a pattern commonly thought to be more difficult.
In America, of course, (I have to put this in!) both the girl and the boy are expected to cut loose and that is why we have the world's highest divorce rate. Yes, within our millions of young, unstable "nuclear" families you might very well find more deep discontent and even a higher rate of spousal murder than the incidence of "kerosene" murders in India.
The Best Thing in India But the best thing about India is the millions of Christians. If India were broken up into South, Middle, North, and North East, the first and the last in this list would be high on the list of the world's most Christian countries.
North East India's tribal peoples are outside of the caste system, which is still strong in South India. The four most-Christian states of NE India (Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram--call them "the N and M's") have about 4 million Christians (and over 2,000 outgoing missionaries). Yet they have one tenth the population of Tamil Nadu (India's southernmost and highly Christian state) where there are also 4 million Christians.
The Secret, Unmentionable Challenge of India However, amidst all the exciting details in this issue about India, don't get lost. Don't miss the single most important fact, namely, that there are so many Christians in India with their own problems that there is relatively very little effort now being devoted to reaching outside of the world within which the Christians live into the mainstream of the Hindu fortress. Most of the missionaries, even, from South India or from North India, are sent to reach either nominal Christians or tribals. But the main world of the former caste system is still the object of very little Christian outreach.
This is why we could not even figure out a good title for the article on page 25. It would not occur to most Americans that the Hindus of India are not at all the main focus of church or mission outreach. India is the globe's greatest concentration of fearful need and incredible hope. It is the ultimate testing ground for the Christian faith. Both obstacles and Christian resources are unimaginably large!
Sure, we can succeed in Europe, even Russia. Sure we can make sense to the world of Muslims--who are already monotheists with great respect for Jesus Christ. Sure we can make a contribution to "Catholic" Latin America. Sure we can bowl over the tribal cultures of Africa (half of black Africa claims Christianity right now. But India? My answer on pages 16-21 Ralph D. Winter
Tales of Two Boys I talked with one of them in my office just yesterday, the Right Rev. Jason Dharmaraj. He is the first graduate of the Union Biblical Seminary (formerly of Yeotmal) to be appointed a bishop in the 3.5 million member Church of South India. He is the bishop of the largest diocese in India (1,128 congregations and 230,000 members)--the Tinivelli Diocese--that includes the Donovur Fellowship where Amy Carmichael did her work. This diocese is literally supercharged with outreach and good works.
Before this appointment he was Director for seven years of the first mission society ever founded in India--The Indian Mission Society, founded by Bishop Azariah in 1905. This organization has hundreds of missionaries in North India, learning a language foreign to them. This agency started the trend to national-led mission agencies. And, it started the idea of such mission agencies not accepting foreign funds--for example, the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, which consists of about 20,000 very poor families who give sacrificially to support 500 missionaries who cross language and cultural barriers.. Before directing this "original" Indian mission, he was a pastor for twenty years.
Jason Dharmaraj and his wonderful wife visited with us, giving their personal testimonies and, in an unforgettable moment, the simple, powerful story of lives transformed in discipleship to Jesus Christ. His younger brother, Premkumar, wrote the article on page 25. Prem is Director of the India Center for Mission on our campus, which has the unique focus we describe in our reference to the "Secret, Unmentionable Challenge of India" on page 4. He has been a missionary to Hindus in Singapore.
Thousands upon thousands--yes, millions--of devout, stable, enthusiastic believers like this, all of whom have access to all of India, represent bright hope for India.
Boy Two The second boy grew up in one of the upper caste groups of India, went to the University of Toronto to study engineering, got a job, settled down, became a Christian, and married an evangelical girl who was part of the famous Peoples Church of Toronto. Eventually they had three children and wanted to show them off to his parents back in India, not far from New Delhi.
But his parents protested. His father advised him to stay in Toronto where his family was well acquainted. There was no hard feeling, just a clear objection to him bringing his family back to India. No, not even he should come by himself.
Why? His family is well-to-do. The family is in good health. They have space to put up their visitors. What is the problem? Again and again attempts were made to persuade the parents to accept their Toronto children back to visit their home in India. No. No, no, please, no!
Eventually the whole family got on a plane anyway. On arrival in the airport in New Delhi the son called his father. The conversation was long and hopeless. "Please, son, please do not come and visit us. We can visit by phone, and we can write letters. We want to keep in touch with you, but please, please do not come to our house." Finally, in tears, the son asked his father, "Father, tell me, why not? What is the real reason?"
The father replied, "Son, you drink; you eat meat. You know that no one in our house has ever done that. It would take us months to cleanse the home if you and your family were to set foot in the door. " The son had been away too long--14 years. It was obvious, now, what bothered his father. But it wasn't true!
He replied, "Father, I do not drink. My wife does not drink. Our children do not drink (alcoholic beverages)." There was a long pause. The father did not know that some Christians do not use alcohol. (The entire U.S.-sized population of South India is "dry," not because there are perhaps 20 million Christians there--since Anglicans and Lutherans come from a European drinking background--but because Hindus oppose alcohol as well as meat.) Well! That was surprising. But, hesitantly, the father said, "But you eat meat."
"No, father I have never eaten meat." "But your wife and children eat meat." "No, father, none of us eat meat." Now, there was a very long pause, and tears--the father's tears. He finally recovered himself and stumbled out, "Son, come! Come to our house."
I confess that it brings tears to my eyes just to relate this story again.
Why would any Christian believer let a deadly drug, or even a non- essential food, stand between him and 650 million Hindus in India? "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat," said the Apostle Paul.
Vegetarian Colossus The vast majority of India is vegetarian. People there object to the slaughter of animals for food even more than Americans object to the slaughter of animals for sport or for adornment.
We are not often reminded that it takes ten times as much land to produce the same energy in meat as in grains.
Does this relate to the fact that while India's population is equal to all of the people who live in black Africa plus Latin America put together, nevertheless India's land space is only one tenth as large. It is clear that if India were not mainly vegetarian it would be incredibly more difficult to sustain that large a population!