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Faith unfurls amid India’s colorful flags

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DELHI (BP)–Every year, a swash of orange, white and green spans the nation of India on the anniversary of its independence from Britain.

The Indian flag is a central part in each year’s Independence Day celebrations. “Flags are everywhere, on bikes, in schools, in shops,” said Muida*, a language teacher in southern India. “Everyone has a flag. There are big banners in the big markets and bazaars, plus the flags.”

On the morning of Aug. 15, the nation’s prime minister raises the flag at the ancient Red Fort in Delhi, just as India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, raised it 60 years ago. Around the nation, Indians follow suit.

“We hoist the flag and give out sweets,” said Muzammil, an Indian student. “We still have classes, but we take classes on freedom fighting. Then we march in the road with flags. Our parents are invited to attend.”

The Indian flag has three horizontal stripes. The top stripe is orange, the middle is white and the bottom is green. At the very center of the flag in the white stripe is the Gandhi “chokra,” Muida explained.

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“Gandhi’s symbol is very important,” she said. “It is the symbol of a hard worker.”

Like the Indian flag that is proudly flown to proclaim independence, Christians across India are flying banners of another kind -– of spirit, not fabric — to proclaim their identity as Christ’s followers.

“A flag or banner represents a belief in or passion for something, such as a country, a sport, etc., and is raised in boldness,” said Bernadine Strobel*, an international Christian serving in India. “We as Christians hold Christ and His love as our banner, and it should be a bold symbol to the nations of what we believe.”

For India’s Christians, this banner is “the new identity that they find in Christ,” Strobel said. “It sets them apart from their non-believing family and friends. They must be sure that their banner shows that they are different now that Christ is the banner over them.”

Examples of Indian believers raising the banner to proclaim Christ abound throughout the country. One such example is one of Strobel’s Indian friends.

“You can tell that Christ is her banner through the love that she shows to believers and non-believers alike,” Strobel said. “She has a heart for the lost and has a desire to see other Indians come to Christ.”

Strobel recently accompanied her friend to a small, devoutly Hindu village where the friend and her husband periodically travel to do ministry. The friend and her husband met with serious opposition from the village’s leaders when they first went to share their faith in Jesus.

Through persistence and prayer, a door opened to reach out to the village’s children, and Strobel’s friend and her husband were able to raise the banner of Christ. Slowly, the village has become more open to them.

“It is amazing, the work that they’ve done in that village,” Strobel said. “They continue to meet there weekly and talk with the leaders and share Christ.”

Though no one in the village has yet come to Christ, Strobel’s friend continues to portray the banner of love rooted in her identity in Christ. As Christ continues to work through faithful believers, like Strobel’s Indian friend, the banner of love is raised still higher.

“As believers and followers of Christ, we should daily be displaying the banner of Christ’s love,” Strobel said. “Hopefully, it will cause Indians to see the truth that there is a God who created them and loves them.”
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*Name changed for security reasons. Kari Wynn is a Baptist writer based in southern Asia.