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New IMB prayer guide targets Hinduism’s spiritual darkness

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–On Nov. 3, Hindus will begin celebrating Divali, their annual Festival of Lights. At the same time, Southern Baptists will launch 12 days of prayer for the religion’s 900 million followers.
A new prayer booklet published by the International Mission Board will guide Southern Baptists as they participate in the Hindu intercession effort.
One of the most widely celebrated Hindu religious festivals, Divali features the lighting of small lamps to commemorate the return and coronation of Rama, believed to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu, from 14 years of exile. According to one Hindu calendar, Divali is the first day of the year, a time for new clothes, visiting friends and exchanging gifts.
Hindus worship a total of 330 million gods and goddesses, from whom they seek power and blessing. Achieving unity with their gods represents the only hope Hindus have of escaping the circle of birth, death and reincarnation in which they believe they are trapped.
“Hindus believe life is an endless cycle of reincarnation and appeasement of the gods,” said Randy Sprinkle, director of the IMB’s prayer strategy office. “Most know little or nothing of God and his great, saving love for them in the Savior, Jesus Christ.
“As Divali begins, we want to invite Southern Baptists to pray that the world’s Hindus might be convicted of sin and see Jesus is the Light of the world.”
Most of the world’s 900 million Hindus live in India; many others live in nearby countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Significant numbers of Hindus live in the United States and other Western countries.
Interest in the Hindu prayer emphasis may be heightened by the persecution many Christians experience in India.
In one recent incident, two Christians were severely beaten Oct. 8 in Gujarat state by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a fundamentalist Hindu party. The VHP is aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party that recently kept its slim majority in parliament. Christian leaders in India worry that the BJP victory will embolden Hindu fundamentalists to press their violent agenda of wiping out Christianity in India.
Human Rights Watch said in a September report that Christian priests have been killed, nuns have been raped and Christian churches, schools and cemeteries have been destroyed. The report blamed the Indian government for failing to prosecute such crimes and instead “has in many cases offered tacit support and indirect justification for the attacks.”
In January, rampaging Hindus burned to death an Australian missionary and his two sons as they slept in a jeep in eastern India. In August, an official inquiry into the murders dismissed suggestions that either the BJP or an extremist Hindu sect was responsible for the slayings.
Christians make up 2.4 percent of the country’s 1 billion people, and most live in four southern states. Tradition holds that Thomas, an apostle of Jesus, brought Christianity to India. In modern times, Christian missionaries have worked in the country since the colonial era.
The prayer guide contains 12 vignettes of Hindu life, culture and history, as well as suggestions about how to pray for Hindus during the Festival of Lights.
The Hindu prayer guide is the third in a series of similar publications produced by the International Mission Board. Two guides previously have been published for Muslim and Jewish religious festivals. A fourth prayer guide focusing on Buddhism is planned.
To order the Hindu prayer guide, titled “Divali: Festival of Lights,” e-mail the IMB resource center at [email protected], and include name and mailing address, or call toll-free 1-800-866-3621.

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  • Mark Kelly