My millennialist-minded mother was in the habit of sending me news clippings of world affairs to warn me to be alert and faithful in the last days. I have several clips on global warming, China's preparedness to annihilate the United States, the Y2K bug, and many on the persecution of Christians in India.
It all seemed so distant that I didn't take any of it seriously—until a visit to my native India in January 1999. The press contained reports of recent burnings of churches, assaults against priests and nuns, and, most memorable, the immolation of an Australian medical missionary along with his two young sons as they slept in their jeep the night before. Needless to say I was shaken. I looked out of my bedroom balcony on that misty morning and wondered how this could be.
Christianity is a very ancient faith here, dating back to pre-Constantine times. In this great land of my birth and maturity, our lifelong family friends were and are Hindu and Muslim. I thought of the convent school in which I was educated from kindergarten to high school. There were a handful of Christian students; the majority of students and teachers were Hindu. I thought of all the friends I made there and still have. I decided I would talk about what was going on with my neighbors of 30 years, but my parents advised me against it as the family members these days were committed Hindu nationalists. When I did converse with friends, they politely avoided the matter. Tales of Nazi Germany came to mind where—overnight—old friends and neighbors became strangers in the name of politics and ideology. I started to fear not only the future but also the loss of the past for Christians in India. Three years on, things have only worsened for India's Christians, and for those elsewhere as well.