Church and ministry leaders asked to be part of draft body
S. ASIA (MNN) ― Drafting a new constitution is impossible without peace, as one nation in South Asia (unnamed for security reasons) is discovering.
The country has been dealing with contentious political wrangling over the shape of the government even as missed deadlines threatened to erupt once more in a deadly rebel insurgency.
This week, a former government leader encouraged reconciliation between the government and the rebels, and at the same time tried to woo fringe parties to be a part of the drafting process.
Joe Handley with Asian Access says the opportunity for church leaders and A2 country directors to help shape the future of this country is unprecedented. "They've been invited in to speak into the constitution for probably what is the first time for the church. Pray for wisdom as these leaders work with the political apparatus of the country to draft things that work well for society, work well for the government, work well for the people, but also empower the church."
However, Handley notes that at the same time, "The challenge is that this is also a threat to many of the groups that are involved in this particular country. Many of these groups have been known to burn down churches and actually kill pastors. The leaders of Asian Access in South Asia have received a threat for ransom."
Pressures on Christians are immense, but so is the hope. Getting in on the ground floor would enable them to create a safe haven. "This is a new era, and we're praying and hoping that they can help influence this constitution in such a way that the church would stand stronger and have not only their rights, but also be able to practice their faith in freedom."
Handley says, right now, the oppression and harassment against believers is severe enough that church leaders have had to take some precautions. "When they're meeting with folks and people show an interest in Christ, and they're about ready to get baptized, they go through this list of seven questions. It's a very delicate situation. They're quite open, but they're really hoping that this is going to be the birth of a new era in the country."
It's an examination, of sorts, to assess the level of commitment. It also serves as a reality check.
1. Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
2. Are you willing to lose your job?
3. Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
4. Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
5. Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
6. Are you willing to go to prison?
7. Are you willing to die for Jesus?
If he or she is willing to answer "Yes" to all of these questions, then A2 leaders invite the person to sign on the bottom of the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. If they refuse, it's more likely that they may be operating as a police plant.
The risk: If a new convert signs and is caught, it's three years behind bars. The one who did the evangelizing faces six years in prison.
The country is predominantly Hindu, but over the past few decades Christianity has grown in popularity -- especially among poor and tribal peoples, attracted by the opportunity to escape the rigid caste system. Says Handley, "It's one of the fastest-growing regions of the church for the last 10 to 15 years, but it's growing under these enormous pressures. Right now, there's a unique opportunity to influence the direction of the country by the redrafting of this constitution."
Christian leaders have also been demanding that the government formally recognize their status. As for church leaders and A2 staff, he adds, "They're desperate for our prayers. They have asked us over and over again recently, 'Please mobilize troops for prayer for South Asia.'"
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- This story was originally published by Mission Network News. Read online here.
- See other A2 stories covered by MNN.
- Read Joe Handley's staff profile.