In an earlier post, we mentioned how persecution for Christians in India is escalating in many parts of the country, particularly by certain groups. One group that we mentioned is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS. This group has a long history in India and is one of several who pressures Christians in the country. In this post we will explain a little about the RSS and how we can pray for them according to Christ’s command in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
India is our prayer focus for Secret Church 16: A Global Gospel in a World of Religions. In the weeks leading up to Secret Church, we will share about India—its people, culture, and persecuted church. Join us as we learn about India and lift our brothers and sisters up in prayer.
What is the RSS?
The RSS is a self-identified cultural (not political) organization that was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. It began as part of a movement against British rule and in response to riots between Hindus and Muslims.
Hedgewar believed in the need for a Hindu nation and formed the RSS with upper-caste Hindu men who were committed to protecting Hindu interests in politics, culture, and religion.
Today the RSS continues to promote Hindu nationalist agendas, desiring to propagate “Hindu-ness” throughout the country. It has played a major role in the Hindu nationalist movement and has been banned on several occasions by the government for its part in violence in several communities.
According to its website, the RSS seeks to make India a “resurgent and mighty nation” for the “welfare of entire mankind.” Their goal is to take the present scattered Hindu society and turn it into an organized and strong force. The organization prizes world unity and human welfare and wants to take their nation to a better, more glorious place to ensure the protection of their Hindu culture.
The group has a national leader and claims to have branches in 50,000 villages and cities throughout the country. It is made up of Hindu men and encourages youth males to join the cause to bring India into a true Hindu nation. Besides this main goal, the RSS website says that the group volunteers in communities all across the country to help meet the needs of their nation.
What does this mean for non-Hindus?
Many Hindus in India believe in the mission of the RSS, but many also do not. Critics of the RSS call the group militant and sectarian and criticize their influence in politics. It is important to note this because not all Hindus in India are constantly pushing for a pure Hindu state.
Non-Hindus, specifically Christians and Muslims, face a great deal of pressure from the RSS and have for many years. In their efforts to create a glorious Hindu nation out of India, obvious roadblocks to this are people who practice other religions.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the RSS in some areas is putting pressure on Indian people to re-convert or renounce Christianity and return to Hinduism. These believers who have come from a Hindu background are especially targeted and pressured by the RSS and their communities.
Local RSS groups are well-known in many communities and cause many Christians and those who they share the gospel with to fear backlash. Often times Hindus who become Christians can be subject to beatings, especially those who are bold in sharing their faith. Even more dangerous, sharing the gospel with an RSS member could be very costly for a Christian in India, yet many Christians are doing just that.
How can we pray?
Pray for the Persecuted
We need to pray for Christians in India who face persecution from groups like the RSS. Here are a few ways to pray:
- Prayer for Hindu-background Christians to stand strong in their faith and not give in to pressure to “re-convert.”
- Pray for new Hindu-background Christians to have someone to disciple them and help them grow in their faith.
- Prayer for Christians all over India to be bold witnesses for Christ no matter what opposition they face.
- Pray for churches in India to have a good community and for believers to support each other in the midst of persecution.
Pray for the Ones Who Persecute
While this may seem counter-intuitive, Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 are clear—pray for those who persecute. We need to come alongside our brothers and sisters in India. We need to pray with them for people in their country who are against Christianity. Below are a few ways to begin praying for the RSS and others who persecute Christians in India.
- Pray for members of the RSS to hear the gospel and become followers of Christ. Ask that these members would share with other members and would spread the gospel throughout the organization.
- Pray that Christians and the RSS would live peaceably with one another. Ask that the RSS would see the love of Jesus in Indian Christians and would want to know more.
- Pray for government leaders who are heavily influenced by the RSS and other groups. Ask that leaders would make the best decisions for all of India’s citizens and not just a select group.
- Ask God to do a mighty work among RSS members and call many into his Kingdom. Remember, we were once lost in our sin and enemies of God. Let us never forget this and let us beg the Lord to rescue more souls for his Kingdom!
Information for this blog was collected from the RSS website, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the BBC.