In India, the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown that followed has presented thousands of house church pastors and persecuted Christians with severe challenges.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reports that amid the country’s nationwide lockdown — which Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended until May 3 — pastors have been unable to gather their congregations for worship. As a result, already-struggling church leaders haven't been able to collect support for their families or ministries.
“My rations will run out in three or four days,” said pastor Radhe Kishan, a church planter who lives with his wife and 11-month-old daughter in a rented house in a rural village located in the Shahajanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
“About a week ago, a church member gave me five kilos of wheat flour and some lentils,” pastor Kishan told ICC. “We are surviving on that, and it might go for another four days. We have no choice except to trust in God for our food and needs. I am trusting God for His provision.”
Before the pandemic, pastor Kishan visited between four and five villages each week and would share the Gospel with an average of 35 people. “I feel sad that I am unable to meet people to share the Gospel,” he said. “I am also not allowed to do outreach work or to lead worship services. That was a part of my normal routine.”
Another house church pastor from Karnataka told ICC that because he is a Christian, he is not eligible to receive the rations provided by the government.
“The moment I embraced the Christian faith, I lost my eligibility to receive the benefits that the government provides to the poor. It used to be difficult to survive only on the offerings collected on Sunday. Now that the church is completely shut down, I don’t have an income to feed my family,” he said.
To help persecuted Christians affected by the government's lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICC has launched a campaign to provide critical food aid to vulnerable communities, including church planters.
“More than 70% of rural church planters are facing a huge challenge,” the Rev. Prabhu Das, director of Seva Bharat, told ICC. “The majority of these pastors are living in difficult conditions as they do not have an income whatsoever while the churches are closed. They are forced to stay inside their homes, despite not having access to basic needs. These people desperately need food, healthcare, and moral support.”
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