The Gateway is Open!
In the past weeks and months, the date of November 4, 2001 held an event that was the focus of much prayer and petition. Up to a million Dalits ("untouchables") were expected to gather in Delhi, India on that day, declaring their exodus from more than 3,000 years of slavery in the caste system and expressing their desire to convert to a different faith.
We asked God for this event to become a "gateway" for us to share the love of Christ with the 300 million Dalits of this great nation - and God has done just that!
(We wish we could tell you more details of how God is leading. But for the sake of our workers on the field and so as not to hurt the possibilities before us, we have to restrain from going into great detail. We are dealing on a daily basis with many obstacles and opposition but, whenever it is possible, we will share information with you concerning this event and it's impact. Keep praying!)
How it Began
The rally originated with Ram Raj, a Dalit leader who has been working for years to bring his people out of the bondage of the caste system. Following the example of his predecessor, Dr. Ambedkar, who, along with tens of thousands of Dalits, converted to Buddhism in 1956, Ram Raj's initial plan was to conduct a ceremony in which a million Dalits would do the same. But his primary goal was to make a statement to the nation that the Dalit people had the freedom to choose any faith they wanted - Christianity included.
This was not a Christian convention per se. In fact, Ram Raj himself publicly affirmed his own conversion to Buddhism by means of a special ceremony that was conducted during the rally. Addressing all the Dalits of India, he spoke with much fervor and conviction, saying, "Get out of casteism! All human beings are equal - go on and convert to any faith of your choice." Then he shouted, "Let my people go!"
He then spoke at length about the love and support he had received from the Church in India, and how the body of Christ supported freedom of choice for the Dalits. He asked the Christian community to continue to help them in every way possible.
There was applause as he shared about the solidarity that Christians had pledged to the Dalits.
"Thank You for Opening Your Heart to Us"
GFA President K.P.Yohannan and Joseph D'Souza, President of the All India Christian Council, were the only Christian leaders allowed to speak to the people gathered. (Portions of their messages will be available soon.)
Introducing Brother K.P. Yohannan to the crowd, Ram Raj spoke very kindly and expressed his appreciation for Gospel for Asia's promise to establish 200 primary schools for Dalit children. Illiteracy is a major problem among the Dalits, with up to 90 percent of the population in some areas unable to read .
Speaking for the body of Christ as a whole, Brother K.P. addressed the Dalit people as he would his own family:
"My precious brothers and sisters, I come to you today speaking on behalf of Christ, His love, and His mercy for us all. Jesus came to set the captives free. And He Himself said that whoever the Son sets free is free indeed... This is the day, the gateway [to that freedom]... Please remember, we love you with Christ's love, unconditionally and always."
The Dalit delegates responded very positively to Brother K.P.'s message. The Dalit leaders especially expressed their gratitude for the openness of the Church in inviting them to be a part of God's family. After his speech, one key national Dalit leader approached Brother K.P. with a firm handshake, saying, "Thank you for opening your heart to us. We are one."
The People Still Came
The days leading up to November 4 were filled with much tension. Fearing that this primarily Buddhist ceremony might be only a smokescreen for a Christian conversion event, religious fundamentalists did everything they could to prevent the rally from happening.
Although government permission had been given for the use of a certain stadium for the million-person gathering, that permission was revoked only days prior to the event
Also, in an effort to prevent Dalits from coming, all sorts of false information was circulated through posters, radio and television, announcing that the rally had been cancelled.
In addition, police stopped hundreds of buses coming into Delhi, and there were also reports of large numbers of people being detained at the railway station.
But the people still came.
An alternate location was chosen for the meeting, and soon a crowd of 100,000 Dalits packed the compound, with thousands more standing outside.
There were about 3,000 media representatives at the event, both local and international. Anti-Christian groups initially downplayed the rally and stated the number in attendance as between 3,000 and 20,000. However, two separate local television stations both reported that at least 100,000 Dalits were at the rally; and a local newspaper carried a police statement the following morning with the same facts.
For the First Time in History
For the first time in the history of the nation of India, people are becoming aware of the fact that 300 million Dalits are seeking liberation and new life through any faith of their choice. The nation as a whole is realizing that these people have the freedom to chooseand they will.
Another milestone occurred at this rally: The entire church body of India, representing all denominations and mission organizations, declared their solidarity with the Dalit community. What this has done is to open a gateway for 300 million people to experience the love of Christ for the first time in their lives.
Please continue to pray for the Dalits in the days to come. The rally on November 4 was only the beginning of something that will continue in the months and years ahead. Most of the key Dalit leaders from all over India were present to hear the message of Jesus' love and the openness of the Christian community toward them. Pray that these leaders will now share this message in their communities with their own people.
And please pray for for the nation of India, the largest democracy in the world, a nation of wonderful people. God loves India, and we thank Him for the government leaders there whom He has appointed according to His plan and purpose. Please pray for the President of India, Mr. K.R. Narayan; for Prime Minister Vajpayee; and for Home Minister L.K. Advani; that God may bless them and this great nation.
Thank you for praying! God has answered in a way that is more than we hoped for. November 4th, 2001 was the gateway for many wonderful things to come -- changed lives, miracles and souls that no man can count coming into the Kingdom... it is only the beginning. Let us trust God that the gateway to share the love of Jesus with the Dalits will remain open until all have heard His name.
"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47