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  2. Welcome to the 2021 edition of the 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World prayer guide! INTRODUCTION The whole world suffered through the pandemic of COVID-19 but the nation of India, the home of the majority of Hindus, has endured more of its terrible misery than most. The impact of the disease through loss of life, health, opportunity, and income has left no Indian family untouched and will be felt for decades to come. The theme of “family” for this year’s guide was chosen, and work had begun on writing articles and gathering photos all before the brutal force of the second wave of COVID-19 hit India. Sickness, grief and loss ravaged the Indian subcontinent. Families were devastated. Hindu funeral pyres lit up the streets for weeks. The coordination team for this prayer guide, our families, friends, and communities have been changed forever. Hinduism approaches the problem of suffering in different ways, depending on the branch one follows. Swami Vivekananda, was an influential Hindu monk from Calcutta who lived from 1863-1902. His teaching on suffering draws from the story of the goddess Sita, who suffers great injustices in the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana. Sita is lauded as the ideal woman: devoted and pure, faithful despite any pain or injustice. Her ability to endure suffering is considered her greatest strength. Swami Vivekananda teaches that patient endurance in suffering is the Hindu ideal. He says, “We destroy evil by suffering, until evil is nothing to us, it becomes positive enjoyment.” He compares this to the Western philosophy of suffering, which aims to “minimise evil by conquering it.” As followers of Christ, we do not embrace a “Western” or an “Eastern” philosophy, but we look to the Scriptures to understand the human experience of suffering, in all its forms and outcomes. The Bible directs us to remember that suffering is temporary (1 Peter 5:10), that it is nothing compared to the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18), and that God can use it for good (Romans 8:28). Believers are also exhorted to use suffering as an opportunity to grow in faith (James 1:2-4) and to recognise it as something we share with Jesus (Philippians 3:10). Knowing that we 1
  3. will face suffering, we are commanded to comfort those who are afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Galatians 6:2) and be comforted by the presence of Christ in our own suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5, Psalm 23). Lament is part of our faith (Psalm 88) but so is hope (Revelation 21:4). In the face of so much suffering one can feel hopeless. Prayer can seem inadequate. But we are inspired by the promise in Romans 8:26-28. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, INTRODUCTION because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. As you pray through this prayer guide, allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through you for the Hindu families who need to experience the hope of Christ in their season of lament. Pray for the restoration of India, and other Hindu communities ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. And pray for Christians in these communities to cause the message of Jesus to spread throughout these regions, calling Hindu people to Him and working all things together for good. 2
  4. About the 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World INTRODUCTION How did 15 Days start? In 2016, a network of Christians working to share the love of Christ with Hindu people were inspired to revive a prayer guide for Hindus that had begun development in the 1990s. This 2021 edition is an expression of the love that followers of Christ have for Hindu peoples; love that includes a desire for them to prosper and discover eternal salvation in Jesus. Who writes the articles and produces the guide? Content for the prayer guide is contributed by a diverse group of Christ-followers spread all over the world, many of whom live with, work with, and love Hindu people. How do you decide what to pray for? We accept submissions from all over the world, usually following a theme each year. If you are interested in mobilising prayer for a particular need in the Hindu world, please contact us using the contact form on our website: or send an e-mail to PRAY THEN LIKE THIS “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 3
  5. About Hinduism Is Hinduism a religion? Hinduism is too complex to describe as a single religion, and we will not attempt to provide a comprehensive understanding of it in this guide. Within Hinduism, there is no central orthodoxy, creed or set of beliefs that can be used to determine who is a Hindu. The word “Hinduism” describes a diverse group of many religions, traditions, teachings, or belief systems. Any Hindu person might have their own separate set of creeds, beliefs, etc. It might be better to speak of many Hinduisms rather than one Hinduism. However, it is useful to recognise that the word “Hinduism” is commonly used, even by Hindus themselves, to describe this broad set of ideas and collective identity. Who is a Hindu? About 15 percent of the world’s population identifies as Hindu. Being Hindu is primarily based on being born into a Hindu family, not on any set of beliefs, worship of any specific god, or act of conversion. What are the origins of Hinduism? Many saints, gurus, authors, and famous personalities have contributed to the development of Hinduism. However, no single founding person or event is given credit for starting Hinduism. While most Hindus will agree that certain sacred Hindu texts are valuable, no holy scripture is held to be fully and equally authoritative by all Hindus. Complex and diverse Hindu traditions have existed in South Asia since before recorded history. Additionally, the Hindu community’s perception of itself has changed and evolved over the centuries and continues to develop. INTRODUCTION 4
  6. Hindu population statistics INTRODUCTION Hindu population statistics INDIA is the world’s second most populous nation and 95% of all Hindus in the world live here. Of India’s population of 1.4 billion, around 80 percent are Hindu. NEPAL is the only other country in the world with a majority Hindu population. About 81 percent (or 22 million) of Nepal’s total population of 29 million is Hindu. BANGLADESH has a Hindu population of about 16 million (10 percent of the total population of 163 million). INDONESIA, with more Muslims than any other country, also has a Hindu population of about 4.5 million or 1.7 percent of the total population of 270 million; most of the Hindus live on the island of Bali. PAKISTAN, which ranks 3rd in the list of countries with the most Muslims, has a Hindu population of about 3.4 million (1.6% of the total population of 216 million) Globally, there are 1.1 billion Hindus, or 15 percent of the world population of 7.8 billion. By comparison, the population of Christians is 2.3 billion, and Muslims 1.9 billion. THE FIVE COUNTRIES WITH MOST HINDUS 5
  7. Praying for Hindus INTRODUCTION Hindus are the second-largest, least-reached religious group in the world, with only about 2 percent of cross-cultural ministers focused on sharing the gospel with them. This means that the majority of Hindus still live without any meaningful access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Luke 4:17-19, Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” In this prayer guide, we encourage you to pray for Hindu communities who are among some of the poorest in the world, and are in need of freedom, favour and good news. Pray for them to be blessed, to be healed and to have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray that you are inspired by the provided scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers and your heart towards the Hindu people He loves. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (MATTHEW 9:37-38) 6
  8. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for Hindus in the first stage, for opportunities to make Christian friends and hear the gospel. (Proverbs 22:6) Pray for Hindus in the second stage, that in this busy season of life they will have encounters with the Holy Spirit that help lead them to find Christ. (Ephesians 1:17-19) Pray for Hindus in the last stages of life, that in their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment they would have a revelation of Jesus. (Acts 2:17) In Hindu philosophy, there are four stages of life, called ashramas. These help to direct a Hindu through life, with different purposes and goals at each stage. Brahmacharya is the first ashrama, the student stage, when a child is expected to focus on education. This stage lasts until around the time a child finishes their formal education. The second ashrama is Grihastha, the stage of life when a Hindu is expected to marry, set up a household of their own, and have children. Starting a family is seen by some Hindus as a spiritual duty. Hindu texts have much to say about marriage and how to make it successful. In many Hindu cultures, this duty is additionally emphasised by the importance placed on maintaining an ancestral line. The stages of Hindu life DAY 1 The third ashrama, Banaprashtra is the time of life when a person is free from family obligations and has more time to pursue spiritual practices. In the multi- generational households common in India, older Hindus will have the opportunity to share their wisdom with grandchildren and help to teach them spiritual lessons. These stages all prepare a Hindu for Sannyasa, the fourth ashrama, when a person devotes themselves entirely to spiritual study with the goal of being set free from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Not everyone practices this fourth ashrama, although some will enter this stage earlier, giving up family life to live a monastic life, focused on spiritual study. 7
  9. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for couples where an arranged marriage isn’t working and there is rejection and isolation. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Pray for blessings on the marriages of Hindus you know and for those in rural India. (Colossians 3:14) Pray for Christians living in Hindu communities, for their marriages to be strong as they reflect the love of Christ. (Revelation 21:1-4) Jagdish grew up in a simple family of dairy farmers. He would work from sunrise, milking the animals, delivering the milk on a motorcycle, and repeating the process again in the afternoon, working late into the evening. He had a good income, and he was quick to pass the money to his family. His generous heart meant he was always willing to lend money to people in need and often gave to help families who had medical expenses or big veterinary bills. Like so many couples in rural India, Jagdish and Devi’s wedding was arranged when they were only babies. Weddings in India are much more about two families coming together and uniting communities than they are about two individuals choosing each other. When this works well it provides a wonderful security to the couple and family and builds strong community. When the time came for Jagdish to marry Arranged Marriages DAY 2 Devi the whole community was excited to celebrate the day. Jagdish had such a generous heart and Devi was a beautiful, gentle girl who loved to help others. It seemed like the perfect match. However, Jagdish had decided that he didn’t want to marry Devi and he would not accept her. The wedding went ahead because cancelling it would bring too much shame on their families. Their families felt that over time Jagdish would change his mind and their parents would bring positive pressure. Sadly, both Devi and Jagdish’s parents passed away not long after the marriage and without the voice or influence of the elders, their marriage has stalled. Devi feels alone, isolated, and unloved while Jagdish is frustrated and angry. They have been married for nearly 8 years and have no children and the pressure and shame that this brings is clearly a burden for them both. 8
  10. A year after his father died of COVID-19, Putu still regrets that he was unable to perform the traditional Balinese funeral ritual called Ngaben. Hindus believe that a properly done cremation is important in helping release the soul of a dead person so they can enter the upper realms to be reborn or released from the cycle of rebirth. Ngaben is an elaborate, often costly ceremony and the social distancing restrictions during the pandemic meant that funeral ceremonies were either simplified or, in the case of those who died of COVID-19, not permitted. The local priest has encouraged Putu that it is the good deeds done by a person while they live that allow the soul to be at peace after death. But Putu feels guilty that he was not able to do everything possible to ease his father’s journey into the afterlife. Hindus in Bali DAY 3 Bali is a province in the Republic of Indonesia. The people of Bali are 87% Hindu, but it is a form of Hinduism that has absorbed elements of other religions such as animism, Buddhism and the dominant religion of the Indonesian archipelago, Islam. 86% of Indonesia is Muslim, making the Balinese Hindus a small minority of 1.7%. The government in Indonesia restricts religious observances to a degree and citizenship requires belonging to an officially recognised religion which must be monotheistic. Balinese Hindus have adapted the form of their religion to meet this requirement, identifying Ida Sanghyang Widhi Wasa, as the “Divine ruler of the universe”, the “Supreme god” of which all other gods are manifestations of. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Many Balinese rely on tourism for their living, and so they lost their incomes during the pandemic. Pray for the recovery of the Balinese economically, emotionally and spiritually. (James 5:16) Pray for Balinese Hindus to learn of the gift of salvation that is given by grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Pray for them to have the opportunity to understand the “true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20) 9
  11. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for Hindu families to look to the One who blesses them with children and trust Him. (Psalm 127:3-5) Pray for families like this one to find hope and peace in Jesus. (1 John 5:13-14) Pray that families will embrace the value God puts on every individual and celebrate one another. (Luke 12:7) We were newly married ourselves, and living in India, when our neighbour’s son got married. The whole village came out for the wedding celebrations. The women travelled separately from the men and met up again when the procession began. It started at sundown with a parade through the streets to the bride’s home. There was loud music, dancing, food, and people everywhere! The actual marriage ceremony didn’t take place until nearly midnight and the party went on until early the next morning. The couple hadn’t been married very long, when the husband’s family knocked at our door, asking if we could interpret a doctor’s report. They wanted to know what was wrong with the new bride, and why she wasn’t yet pregnant. We were gladly able to tell them that it looked like nothing was wrong and that they just needed to wait. The pressure on the new Marriage and Babies DAY 4 bride to produce children was intense, living with her husband’s family, in a constant state of shame and dishonor until she conceived a child. In Hinduism, children are extremely important. Infants are loved and indulged, with male children being of particular importance to keep the family name and maintain the ancestral line. 10
  12. HOW CAN WE PRAY? The COVID-19 pandemic has been a terrible ordeal in India, but pray that good will come, such as a change in the expectations for overwork. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Pray for fathers in India to be a blessing to their children, a reflection of God’s love. (Matthew 7:9-11) Pray for Hindus in India to hear the word of the Father and follow Him. (John 14:23) Whenever Vikas talks about his four- year-old son his face lights up and he talks with pride at how well he is doing in his online pre-school classes. He will also take any opportunity to tell you how well he can ride his bike or how confident he is when talking on the phone to his relatives who recently moved to America. However, Vikas is hardly ever there to see any of this take place, as he is always in the office. Like so many Indian men, Vikas finds much of his life’s purpose and identity in his work, and he must work long hours to please his boss. He leaves early for work to beat the traffic and stays late to make calls to clients in Europe. Saturdays are just another workday with no time for family. For many Indian bosses, the measure of an employee is not how well they work or how smart they work, but how long they work. Too Busy? DAY 5 Vikas recently caught COVID-19 and was fortunate to not be too severely ill, although he was tired and weak for a long time. When he fell ill, he was able to go with his family to their home village to rest and recover. This was the first time in more than 7 years Vikas had more than a long weekend with his family without needing to be in the office. Vikas’s story is typical of many fathers in India. This absence impacts the way children are raised, the way marriages are built, and how families can operate. For many, a father is distant, distracted and out of reach, which makes it hard to understand God as a loving Father. 11
  13. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for Hindu families in Canada grieving the loss of loved ones from the COVID-19 pandemic. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6) Pray for Hindu immigrant communities as they recreate their lives in Canada. Pray they will find friends among Canadian Christians who will support and help them. (Matthew 22:37-39) Pray for Christians in Canada to be the love of Christ to Hindus in their communities and so encourage them to find Christ. (John 3:16) Bhavna kept scrolling through online news about the COVID-19 pandemic devastating India. Too many friends from her hometown of New Delhi were ill or had lost family members to the virus. Bhavna had viewed her grandmother’s funeral via Zoom from Toronto, where she immigrated with her family as a teenager. Toronto was still in lockdown, but she felt safe by comparison - almost guilty for how safe. Waves of grief washed over her as she thought of her grandmother, and fear for how many more would be affected by the virus raging through India. And what of her community here? Some of Bhavna’s friends at the temple were concerned that the news about Indian variations of the virus would cause other Canadians to be fearful of them. It was hard enough, adjusting to Canadian life without additional reasons for discrimination. Hindus in Canada DAY 6 Hindus make up 1.5% of the population in Canada with just under half a million adherents. Most Hindus in Canada are immigrants from South Asia, and the vast majority of them live in the province of Ontario. Toronto is a diverse city, with immigrant populations from many religious and cultural backgrounds, all trying to both adapt to Canadian life and maintain their own identity. 12
  14. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for children who have suffered the loss of family members and found themselves as orphans. Pray that they will be provided for. (Psalm 82:3-4) Pray for people in places of power in government agencies to have compassion for the orphaned children of India. (Isaiah 1:17) Pray for miraculous strength for those who are responding with limited resources to the surge of orphans who have emerged from the pandemic. (Ephesians 3:20-21) Praveen’s parents had just returned to the village from the big city where they had gone to watch some politicians speak. When they returned home, they had bad coughs and fevers. Soon, many in the village had the same symptoms and within a month so many had gotten sick that the small clinic could not manage the cases. Praveen’s family were among those who passed away that month, and as he watched the funeral pyres burn, he knew that he would have to make it on his own. So much of India has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic - families have been ripped apart and deep loss has ravaged the country. Many children find themselves orphaned and homeless, when extended families are unable to care for them. According to UNICEF, India has 29.6 million orphaned and abandoned children. The pandemic Orphans in India DAY 7 only heightened the lack of resources in the government systems that are unable to cope. Many children become victims of trafficking and abuse or end up begging on the street to survive. The law in India used to restrict adoption to Hindus only. In 2014, the Supreme Court in India ruled that persons of any religion could adopt, but different religious laws and traditions continue to make adoption unpopular, and it remains uncommon among Indian families. Over and over in the scriptures God calls his people to remember the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Partnering with God is a call to hear the cry of the marginalized and the oppressed. 13
  15. Laxmi’s family had just moved into their new house in Guyana. Her husband and children cleared the furniture to make a space for the guests who would attend a ceremony called “Jhandi” to give thanks for the new house. Laxmi had been cooking for days, making the traditional 7 curries. The Hindu pandit (priest) would come to pray, chant, and bless the jhandi flags which would fly outside the house next to the small statue that represents the god Shiva. Every day, Laxmi pours water over the Shiva to honour the god and pray for continued blessings on her family. Approximately one quarter of the population of Guyana is Hindu - the highest percentage of Hindus in the Western hemisphere. Hindus arrived in British-ruled Guyana mostly as indentured labourers from India in the mid-19th century. They were the first people to introduce Hinduism in the Americas. Hindus in Guyana DAY 8 Hindu culture in Guyana is similar to other Hindu communities in the Caribbean, of which Guyana is often considered a part. However, British-colonised Guyana had a more robust missionary presence that included schools and economic incentives to convert to Christianity. In neighbouring Suriname, where the Dutch colonisers did not make the same attempts to convert the Indian labourers, the Hindu population still speak Hindi, having retained their language for generations. Despite the loss of their language, Hindus in Guyana mostly remained devoted to their religion and as a community have actively resisted missionary efforts, although in recent decades the Hindu population has declined. About 60% of the population are Christians from a wide variety of denominations. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Guyana has one of the highest rates of death by suicide in the world and this particularly affects the Hindu population. Pray for them to have hope, help and improved resources to address this problem. (Psalm 138:7-8) Pray for the political and economic stability in Guyana and for wise leadership. (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Pray for the Church in Guyana to be a genuine light and witness to their communities. (Matthew 5:16) 14
  16. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for families, government, and communities to respect freedom of religion and not persecute those who wish to follow Jesus. (2 Corinthians 13:11) Ask for God’s comfort and peace for those who have been excluded from their families. (Philippians 4:7) Pray for Hindus to hear teaching on the Father Heart of God. (John 14:9-11) Preeti’s parents had wanted a son. As a child, Preeti longed for her father to take her on his knee and show her some affection but he never did. She was expected to help in the house and pursue the career her mother chose so she could take care of the family. Instead, Preeti became a follower of Jesus in her teens and chose to pursue Christian training to work in ministry. Her family were very angry at this and cut off all contact with her. At the Christian training centre, Preeti heard teaching about God’s Father heart, and how He loves His children relentlessly. The teacher prayed for Preeti, telling her, “God just wants you to sit on his knee and know His love.” Preeti burst into tears realising God fully understood her situation. She shared more with the teacher and they prayed together for reconciliation with her parents. Persecution of Hindu Background Believers DAY 9 Shortly after this, Preeti’s mother called her. She was crying and said, “A mother can never forget her child.” She accepted Preeti’s decision to follow Jesus and do His ministry. Preeti married a pastor, and they continue to serve God in India. Legally in India there is freedom of religion, but political and community culture often results in the persecution of Hindus who become Jesus followers. They can be excommunicated from their family and ostracised from their local community. 15
  17. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Mauritius has been known as a lawful and democratic nation, globally respected. Recent political decisions and accusations of corruption around the management of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused concern about Mauritius’ future. Pray for wise leadership and good governance. (Daniel 2:20-21) Pray for Hindus in Mauritius seeking comfort, protection, and strength, that they will have a revelation of God’s loving protection through Jesus. (Isaiah 49:15-16) Pray for Christians in Mauritius to be the “aroma of Christ” to their Hindu neighbours. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) It was the Hindu festival of Navaratri, a festival dedicated to Maa Durga, the goddess who represents motherhood, strength, and protection. Thousands of Mauritians make pilgrimage to the Ganga Talao - a sacred lake in the south. The crowd was enormous, and Ameenah kept a close eye on her children as they made their way to place flowers at the base of the 108-foot-tall statue of Maa Durga which was built on the banks of the lake in 2017. Ameenah recalled the excitement 10 years previously when a 108-foot-tall statue of the god Shiva was built at the entrance to the lake. It was the tallest statue in Mauritius then and now there were two! The statues are a source of great pride for the Hindu community in Mauritius, and a focal point for celebration and worship. Everyone looked forward to gathering at the lake for the festival, and called out Hindus in Mauritius DAY 10 to one another, “Jai Mata Di “- a phrase to bless and praise the mother goddess and give happiness and strength to those who are greeted with it. Indian traders first introduced Hinduism to Africa in ancient times. Much later, British colonials brought Indians to Africa as indentured labourers where many stayed and formed communities that grew, mostly in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. The island nation of Mauritius is the only nation in Africa with a Hindu majority. 48% of the population of Mauritius are Hindus, the third highest percentage in the world after Nepal and India. A third of the population is Christian, mostly Catholic, but with a diverse population, religious freedom is allowed. 16
  18. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for family elders, that they would come to know Christ and therefore influence many generations of their families. (1 Peter 5:1) Pray for families struggling to accept Jesus because of the influence of their family elders. (1 Corinthians 2:9) Pray for multiplication of house churches within families. (Acts 16:31) The sun slowly rises to reveal the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. Priya wakes and calls softly to her granddaughter. They go together to the kitchen and begin the preparations. Each morning they meet here together. Milk, tea leaves and sugar are added to the pot. As the tea warms, the aroma of sweet chai fills the room, and the rest of the family begins to wake. Priya gathers the cups, old and chipped, worn from years of use, holding memories from mornings past. The tea is served, and everyone is now present, sitting and sipping. Priya lives traditionally, with her extended family, and has recently heard the Gospel message and given her life to Jesus. She now spends these first moments of the morning sharing with the rest of her family her newfound hope. God is using her faith to bring The Influence of Elders DAY 11 several generations of her family into the kingdom, as it is common for three or four generations of a family to live under one roof in a joint family system. In Hindu families, everyone is expected to show respect for elders, by caring for and housing older family members. The elders also carry much influence, especially when it comes to religion and ritual, and passing down wisdom to the younger generation. 17
  19. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pakistan is officially an Islamic state - Hindus and Christians may convert to Islam, but any other type of conversion is rare. Pray for freedom for all Pakistanis to genuinely explore other faiths. Pray for the protection of Hindu families in Pakistan from the threat of kidnapping and from exploitation or discrimination. (Isaiah 1:17) Pray for Christians in and around Hindu communities in Pakistan to be a faithful and loving witness. (Matthew 5:16) When she was younger, Asha would follow her father to his work in the mango fields, following behind him with a small lunch of rice and dal. Now that she is a teenager, her mother keeps her at home. She is not allowed to go out alone, and her parents are watchful. Asha submits to these restrictions, as she has heard the stories of women like herself being kidnapped from their Hindu communities and married to Muslim men under the pretense of conversion to Islam. It is terrifying to think of being kidnapped, but also worrying to consider what her future holds as the daughter of a poor Hindu family. Hinduism has a long history in Pakistan, dating back to pre-Islamic rule. The oldest Hindu text, the Rig Veda, is believed to have been composed in the Punjab region around 1500 BCE. Hindus in Pakistan DAY 12 Only 2% of Pakistan’s population is Hindu, about 4.5 million people, mostly living in the southeastern province of Sindh. Many of Pakistan’s Hindus are born into bonded labour. They inherit the debts of their parents and work their whole lives for a landlord. For lower- caste Hindus who face discrimination in employment and marriage anyway, conversion to the majority religion can be appealing. Becoming a Muslim opens up more opportunities for jobs for the men, or marriage for the girls. But it is not always clear when conversion is voluntary, and young women are particularly vulnerable to being coerced or even captured, converted, and married to a Muslim against their will. It is estimated that as many as one thousand young women are forcibly converted each year in this way. 18
  20. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for a change in culture that expects widows to be cared for as valuable members of their family and community. (Psalm 68:5) Pray that the government will be more efficient and generous in supporting and assisting a dignified lifestyle for widows. (1 Timothy 5:3) That the Church will offer more support to widows. (James 1:27) Being a Widow in India DAY 13 Vinita, from Maharashtra, is one of about 40 million widows across India. After her husband died, she was abused by her family, who saw her as a burden. Her husband’s relatives mistreated her and spent her savings. A Hindu bride is often expected to live with her husband’s family. This weakens her connections with her own family, so if she is widowed, she can become desperate if she is without resources. She may be blamed for her husband’s death or removed from her home. Only qualified widows receive a very small government pension. There are a few government facilities to support widows, providing work training and some medical treatment, but not nearly enough to serve the nation and most are poorly equipped. Orthodox Hinduism denies widows earthly pleasures and dictates they live out their days in worship. Although legal, remarrying is not widely accepted in many communities. Particularly in rural areas, widows are not permitted to wear jewellery or sarees of colour and are expected to stay away from festivals, so they do not bring bad luck. Divya is a blind widow who lives in a small rural town in South Karnataka. Her government pension is often late in coming and the COVID-19 crisis caused her payment to be delayed for months. Divya became a Jesus follower some years ago so her Hindu family abandoned her and took possession of her house. But the Church supports her and another 10 widows in their congregation with food, shelter, and some medical expenses. 19
  21. HOW CAN WE PRAY? Pray for the many Hindus in India who lost family members in the pandemic and continue to grieve. (Matthew 5:4) Pray for families, struggling with grief, to find comfort and hope in the gospel. (Revelation 21:4) Pray for Hindus, thinking of those who have gone before, to be inspired by the cloud of witnesses who draw us to Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Raju’s father died in the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a chaotic time, and Raju was unable to be with his father when he died. The lockdown made it impossible to complete the usual death rituals, making Raju feel troubled. The ancient Hindu practice of ancestor worship happens each year, according to the lunar calendar, at an event called “Pitri-Paksha Shradh” (fortnight of the ancestors). This year it takes place from September 10-25. During this time, ancestors are remembered, worshipped and their blessings are sought. Food offerings are made, recitations of scriptures are performed and sometimes charitable gifts are given in the name of the one who has died. There are rituals, known as shraadh, for those who have died recently, and also for family members of past generations. Ancestor Worship DAY 14 Raju feels that it is essential that he performs the shraadh properly during this time, so the soul of his father can be at peace. Unsettled by his grief and the circumstances of his father’s death, Raju is eager to conduct the rituals to honour his father. Raju hopes that he will obtain his father’s blessing through this and support him on his journey in the afterlife. Then he will also feel more peace. The Hindu Vedic scriptures teach that a person is born with three debts: a debt to God or the supreme power called ‘Dev- rin; a debt to the saints called ‘Rishi-rin’; and a third debt to one’s own parents and ancestors called ‘Pitri-rin’. This duty to those who have died connects the living to the dead and causes them to be blessed. Hindus feels a strong obligation to honour their ancestors. 20
  22. Rahul encountered Jesus through a friend who had become a believer. Curious about the changes he had seen in his friend, he went with him to a house where many other young people were gathered to read the Bible and worship Jesus, even with songs in Rahul’s own dialect. Joining in the worship, Rahul experienced an overwhelming sense of God’s love, and he committed his life to Jesus, forever changed. Soon more young people from his village came to faith, including Rahul’s sisters. This movement among the younger generation came to the attention of the elders who are concerned about the loss of traditional beliefs and rituals. The young believers have no need of other gods and have lost interest in the ancient Hindu rituals. But they often live together with their parents and Changes and Community DAY 15 grandparents in family households, in a tight-knit community, and there is both a pressure and desire to follow and honour their elders. Whenever there is a village ceremony or occasion, it will always have some form of idol worship included, and the family and community pressure to take part is significant. How can young believers honour their families and communities and yet remain faithful to Jesus? Rahul and his sisters have often prayed for their parents; they love their families and their community and earnestly desire that one day their household will serve Jesus together. HOW CAN WE PRAY? As young people give their lives to the Lord in diverse places across India, pray that they will transform their whole community, across all generations, to see whole households worship the true living God. (Joshua 24:15) Pray for young Christians from a Hindu background to be a wise and loving witness, drawing others to Jesus by their lives. (1 Timothy 4:12) Pray for the salvation of whole households as the message of the gospel is shared in Hindu communities. (Acts 16:31-32) 21
  23. Praying for the future… As we finish the 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World this year, we ask for your continued prayer for Hindus around the world, and particularly those in India who have experienced particular suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic. We must continue in prayer for Indian families rebuilding their lives after the loss of loved ones, livelihoods, and opportunities. Pray also for Christians in Hindu communities, that they will be a blessing to those around them, and their lives would be a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and his unending love. We cannot know what the future holds but we can hold on to the promises that God has given us for ourselves, and for the Hindu world. To learn more about Hinduism please visit © 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World Design by For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) 22