Mehr in India was viciously attacked for being a Christian - and, when she got to hospital, doctors and nurses refused to treat her. All because she follows Jesus. But you can help Mehr's faith - and that of other Indian Christians - remain unshaken.
For Mehr*, an Indian Christian in her twenties, being violently assaulted was only the start of her persecution. After the attack, she faced discrimination at the hands of the people who should help her most.
Mehr grew up as a Hindu, like most people in India. All her family were Hindus, and all her community were Hindus. But she started to question her religion when it couldn’t offer any solace for her chronic illness. Mehr found neither healing nor peace through her faith. And then somebody told her about Jesus. Her mother thought they might as well try taking her to be prayed for by a Christian.
“My mother took me to the church,” Mehr remembers. “I was healed! I came to know Jesus as the true Healer – the living God. I gave my life to Jesus. Our lives changed as we got to know God.”
Mehr, her mother and her sister were excited about their new life as Christians – but others in their community were very unhappy. Converting to Christianity comes with significant risk in many parts of India, as Hinduism is often seen as part of the national identity. Christians are seen as traitors.
In addition, converts from impoverished areas, like Mehr, are often accused of illegally being paid to become Christians. Recently, two more states in India have introduced anti-conversion laws – bringing the total to 11 states. Though these laws purport to prevent forced conversions, they are often abused to falsely target Christians.
“When we accepted Christ, the people in our community accused us of taking money to become Christian,” says Mehr. “We denied such accusations – we told them, Christ did not come for religious conversion. He came to change lives. When we come to the Lord, we receive peace. We are filled with joy.”
Mehr’s words didn’t make any difference. The villagers kept persecuting Mehr and her family. “They isolated us, hurled lewd comments at my sister and me, and shamed us for being involved in ‘illegal’ activities. They constantly used abusive words and mocked us. It was hurtful.”
Despite being insulted and rejected by her community, Mehr kept praying for them. As she explains, “Their words hurt momentarily, but my joy in Christ overpowered all the opposition. I believed and prayed that they would experience Jesus the same way we did.”
But that didn’t happen. Instead, when Mehr’s mother and sister were on their way home from a prayer meeting, they were stopped by a group of angry neighbours. This time, the angry comments escalated into physical violence. The mob began beating Mehr’s mother and sister. Mehr ran to rescue them – but the crowd attacked her too.
“The attackers started to beat me mercilessly and tried to strangle me with a cloth,” she says, with tears in her eyes as she remembers the traumatic event. “I fell unconscious. I was wounded and bleeding and suffered several injuries across my body.”
A bystander managed to stop the persecutors and phoned an ambulance. Mehr was taken to the hospital.
“I was in shock and numbness after the incident,” Mehr shares. “I was not aware of my surroundings. I was in constant fear that the attackers would look for us again, and experienced anxiety and panic attacks.”
"I was devastated and crushed, unable to understand all that was happening." Mehr
Because of her stay at the hospital, Mehr lost her job. She was still being threatened and abused by her attackers, even during recovery. Mehr felt desperate. But her mother and sister reminded her of the hope she has in Christ. They pointed her to Psalm 23: “…for you are close beside me, your rod and your staff protect and comfort me”.
“I was devastated and crushed, unable to understand all that was happening,” says Mehr. “But when my sister or mother prayed with me, I was revitalised – and strengthened by the Word of God that He protects and comforts me.”
Mehr’s wider church family also came to show their love and care. “My relatives, my pastors, pastors from other churches came and everyone prayed for me,” she remembers. “One of them said, ‘Those whose fight the Lord fights, they never lose.’ I slowly started to fortify myself in prayer, reading the Bible and writing down my thoughts to God in the form of songs.”
But Mehr’s ordeal wasn’t over.
With all the trauma and anxiety Mehr was experiencing, she shouldn’t have had to worry about her medical treatment. But the persecution that Christians often face in India has far-reaching effects. The people who attacked Mehr and her family are very influential in their community, and they bribed the medical staff to stop treating Mehr because she is a Christian.
"The nurses didn’t come for my treatment and stopped all care." Mehr
“The doctors were pressurised so that my treatment wouldn’t progress,” says Mehr. “The nurses didn’t come for my treatment and stopped all care. Medicine was also stopped. My heart was gripped with fear – I thought, ‘How will I survive?’ This kind of injustice should not be done to anyone, Christians or non-Christians.”
It’s hard to imagine having to cope with discrimination like this from people whose vocation is to care for you. But this form of persecution is all-too common for Indian Christians who are victims of attacks.
But local Open Doors partners came as quickly as possible to help Mehr, thanks to the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters. “As soon as Open Doors partners came to know about my situation, God sent them as divine helpers,” says Mehr. They were able to get Mehr transferred to a hospital that would treat her, and paid for the treatment.
“Our family is not wealthy, and we didn’t have money for treatment,” says Mehr. “Your ministry paid for my hospital bills. Thank you so much for being an encourager in my life. Surely my cup overflows with blessings. I thank Almighty God for you!”
As well as emergency treatment, local partners are supporting Mehr and her family with financial help and trauma care for the long-term. “You are continuing to help us and support us with groceries and all our needs,” says Mehr. “I thank those who helped me, and may God bless them and increase them – so they may be able to help and support other people like they helped and supported me and my family.”
Just as importantly, Mehr and her family know they aren’t abandoned. It means so much to them to know that their worldwide church family hasn’t forgotten them.
“I am so grateful to my God,” she says. “He certainly has comforted me through your gracious help. When everything looked dark, your presence and prayers uplifted my family and me. I can testify and claim that the plans of God are good and not for my harm, and every circumstance guides me to a future and hope in Christ.”
"When everything looked dark, your presence and prayers uplifted my family and me." Mehr
As well as emergency care and longer-term financial help, Mehr was also able to attend Open Doors training to help her stand firm when facing persecution. She has boldly shared her testimony in the seminar and touched many with her unshakeable faith in Christ. “When this attack happened to me, it wasn’t easy to come out of it, but God put one thing on my heart: ‘Do not fear for I am with you.’ (Isaiah 41:10).
“God is my strength – holy God is my fortress. May God use my testimony to strength my brothers and sisters.”
Mehr knows that justice is very unlikely to be done, in the case of the people who attacked her. Her family lodged a complaint with the police, but her attackers were not arrested or questioned, because of the influential position they hold in the community. Christians in many parts of India find that their accusations are disregarded – and sometimes the police even take the side of the persecutors. But Mehr is living out the command that Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount, to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
“The people who did this to me, I have forgiven them,” says Mehr. “God gave me strength so I could forgive them.” Her strong desire is that all her neighbours, even the ones who launched the vicious attack, will come to know Jesus.
Mehr has gone through a lot at a young age, but her faith is strong and she’s dedicated to being a light for Christ in India— and has a strong vision for the future of the Indian church. “The plan that God has for my life is big. I will be used for God’s glory. Jesus Christ is everything to me. However much persecution increases, God’s people will not decrease. No matter how much people persecute them, they will grow.”
Mehr knows God hasn’t abandoned her – can you show Mehr, and believers like her, that her worldwide family won’t abandon them?
"However much persecution increases, God’s people will not decrease." Mehr
Open Doors partners are helping 80,000 India Christians with emergency relief, and providing long-term help to another 650,000. But many more vulnerable Christians in India are in urgent need of support for medical bills after attacks, food relief when they lose their jobs due to discrimination, legal help, discipleship, training and business loans for the future.
We must act now to support and protect the Indian church from the attempts of extremists to wipe it out. Today, please help ensure the faith of India Christians isn’t shaken.
*Name changed for security reasons
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