Women and children suffer the most. Pray for state programmes and loving Christian ministries to address these desperate needs. Pray that God will change attitudes and practices in society to reflect His care for women and children. Of the 400 million children, possibly up to 35 million are orphans. 11 million are abandoned (90% are girls). 3 million live on the streets. Some families sell children into slavery to pay off family debts. Two-thirds of all children suffer physical abuse, and half suffer some kind of sexual harassment or abuse. Over 1 million end up in prostitution (mostly Nepalis and Bangladeshis). Society prefers male children, so some families abort, abandon, or even kill girl babies. the female population today lacks 35 million girls when compared with the male population. Women have lower rates of literacy and education, and domestic abuse is a widespread problem. Some young girls get dedicated to the ancient service of temple prostitution.
The "New India" is a youthful, ambitious, cosmopolitan and modern entity, where differences of religion, caste and gender mean less and less. It is increasingly urban and tech-savvy. The India of call centres, cricket, Bollywood, bhangra and globally connected Indian culture is exposed to and open to new ideas and ways of living, including Christianity. The most significant influence in this context is materialism - as capable of entrapping Hindus as any other group. This younger generation - 70% of India is under age 35, and 31% under age 15 - will shape India's future. As such, they are a hugely strategic group to reach for Jesus; completely new and different missiological strategies must be undertaken to communicate and model the gospel to them. Indian churches and missions are now focusing on this issue; initial success thus far is very modest.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Hinduism is the world's third-largest religious system. 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. Its global influence is significant through movements such as yoga, Hare Krishna/ISKCON, 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.
The growth of Indian cross-cultural outreach agencies - in number, size and maturity - is remarkable and has occurred despite increasingly intense opposition in many cases. In 1973, there were 420 missionaries. In 2009, India Missions Association (IMA) alone represented over 235 organizations and 40,000 missionaries. Encouraging progress has also been made in upgrading training, improving the quality of ministry, planning strategically, setting goals, initializing research and partnering with others.
India has more unreached individuals than any other nation. Christians in India are very unequally spread - the south and northeast have a much higher proportion of Christians than the more populated north and west. Thirteen states in North India are less than 1% Christian. Pray that the Church worldwide might rise to this task. Pray for:
- The North India Ganges plains, with their teeming millions, in the Hindi-speaking heartland. The states through which the Ganges flows (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal) combine to account for 382 million people. None of these states is more than 1% Christian, according to census data. There is, however, more church growth than ever in the north, from megachurches of 7,000 to networks of tens of thousands of house churches. A vision exists for 1 million churches planted in the north in the next 10 years.
- The great cities, with rapid growth and a mix of great wealth and abject poverty. Chennai, Mumbai and even Hyderabad with significant Christian populations exist in contrast to Kolkata, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow and others where Christian witness is very small. Increasing urbanization sees millions drawn from rural areas into urban areas annually, often with little by way of resources and connections. As a result, India's slum-dwelling population now exceeds 70 million.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.