Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - 10 things Christians should know about India’s 2024 elections - Open Doors UK & Ireland
16 April 2024

10 things Christians should know about India’s 2024 elections

Please pray for India’s Christians during the nation’s elections. Here are 10 things Christians around the world should know, as we stand with our brothers and sisters.

Christians in India are calling for prayers as they head into national elections

Voting begins on 19 April in India’s nationwide elections. The elections continue in seven stages until 1 June, with the results planned to be revealed on 4 June.  

Christians in India know that these elections could have a significant impact on religious freedom, both in individual states and in the country as a whole. Christians and other religious minorities are facing increasing pressure, largely thanks to a rise of Hindu nationalism. Hindu extremists say that all Indians should be Hindu, and openly call for the erasure of other religions in the country. The results of the elections could have an impact on the amount of power and influence that Hindutva ideology wields in India.

Here are 10 things you need to know about the Indian election, how it will affect Christians, and how you can pray.

1. 12.5% of the world can vote

The electorate in India is enormous. The 2024 elections are set to be the largest democratic election in human history, with 960 million eligible voters – which is 12.5% of the global population of eight billion. The last time India had a national election, in 2019, nearly 615 million of the eligible voters did cast a ballot.

2. India has a parliamentary system

India’s government is similar to the United Kingdom’s, in that the elections decide who will sit in the lower house of parliament, called the Lok Sabha or House of the People in India. There are 543 seats, and a prime minister is elected from among the people who win those seats. The current prime minister is Narendra Modi of the BJP party, and he is standing again.

3. The election takes a long time

Because so many people vote and India is such a huge country, the election itself will take nearly six weeks, lasting from 19 April to 1 June. Additionally, India’s election laws are designed to make voting as feasible as possible no matter where a person lives – the Election Commission of India is required to ensure that a voting station is available within 2 km (1.2 miles) of every voter. That means even if someone lives in a remote village in the Himalayas, election workers will carry a voting machine to a nearby location.

4. The main parties are the BJP and the INC

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the India National Congress (INC) parties (and their coalition partners) are the primary two parties that people will decide between. The BJP has had two straight elections of significant success, which means Narendra Modi has been prime minister since 2014. Broadly speaking, the INC is a centrist/centre-left political party, and the BJP is a right-wing party with roots in Hindu nationalism.

5. The elections will have significant consequences for Christians

Because the ruling party in India has significant ties to Hindutva, the ideology that says Indian identity is tied to Hinduism, another victory in this year’s election could be continued difficulties for India’s religious minorities, including Christians. “These [elections] are very crucial, as this will decide the next five years,” says Priya Sharma*, an Open Doors partner in India. “If the current government stays in power, there are chances that India will undergo a complete transformation into a Hindu nationalist state. India will be absolutely intolerant to Christians and other religious minorities.”

6. The elections could continue a dangerous trend

Since 2014, India has gone from 28 on the World Watch List to 11 on the most current list. That shows how the Christian minority in India has increasingly been facing persecution, discrimination and opposition. “In the past ten years, Hindu extremists have openly threatened to eliminate Christianity and other minority religions in India,” Sharma says. “There have been open statements of hatred and threats against Christians. Pastors, leaders and lay Christians have been killed and attacked brutally in broad daylight and the accused are allowed to go free, without any punishment.”

7. Christians are targeted by anti-conversion laws

Anti-conversion laws are currently in place in 12 of India’s 28 states, and purport to prevent forced or coerced conversion from one religion to another (with the exception of conversion to Hinduism). In reality, these laws have created an environment where conversion to a minority religion is very dangerous, and sharing the gospel can lead to persecution. “Under Indian law, citizens are free to choose their religion – but Hindu extremist groups misuse the laws,” says Sharma. “They falsely accuse pastors of offering incentives to people to convert to Christianity or say that church leaders force innocent people to become followers of Jesus. These extremists lodge false complaints at the police station, getting pastors arrested, enmeshed in legal battles and even sent to prison.”

8. There are fears of a national anti-conversion law

Indian Christians are concerned that a win by the ruling party could lead to a national anti-conversion law, rather than simply state-level legislation. “Anti-conversion laws already existed in seven states before the BJP came into power in the national government in 2014, but since they formed their government, anti-conversion laws or bills have been imposed in five more states,” Sharma says. “There have even been several attempts to pass a national anti-conversion law. If the BJP wins the 2024 elections, there is a high chance of an anti-conversion law being introduced at the national level.”

9. A national anti-conversion law could have devastating consequences

These laws are often used to attack converts from Hinduism, and any pastors who are seen as evangelising to Hindus. In 2023, Open Doors partners report that more than 2,300 pastors, leaders and believers were falsely accused, arrested and/or detained for forceful conversion. If a national law passes, this could make things even more dangerous. “If the anti-conversion law is introduced at the national level, this will create huge turbulence for the Christian community,” Sharma says. “More Christians could be tortured, attacked, killed and forcefully ‘reconverted’ to Hinduism.”

10. Christians are not in despair – but are asking God for help

Sharma says that the church in India is growing, despite the persecution. And she’s encouraged by growing unity among believers. “Most Christians only want to vote for a good government,” Sharma says. “Believers are arranging prayer chains, fasting and hosting prayer meetings for a moral, ethical and righteous government to come to power.” Despite the dangers and the persecution, Indian Christians know God is faithful and good. Please join them in praying during this crucial period.

Please pray
  • For fair and safe elections, and that religious minorities would be protected during the campaigning and voting period
  • That anti-conversion laws would not spread further, endangering converts and those sharing the gospel
  • That whoever wins the election would uphold India’s constitutional right to religious freedom.
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