Thousands of Indian church members, Christian group leaders, and ministers are known to have died in the worst COVID-19 outbreak India has seen yet.
On April 7th, 2021, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) jointly declared a day of prayer and fasting for the deceased, according to Christianity Today.
According to Prabhu Singh, principal of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS), an evangelical research institution in Bengaluru, the current COVID-19 crisis is one of the darkest times in the history of the nation.
“One of the heartbreaking results of this intense second wave in the country is the tragic loss of senior leaders of Christian organizations and seminaries as well as church pastors and lay leaders,” he told CT. “The other leaders are also experiencing severe strain as they struggle to cope with the impact of the pandemic.”
“We estimate 350 to 400 pastors, evangelists, and bishops have lost their lives—and that is a conservative figure,” said Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of EFI, citing tallies in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, and other states.
“Nearly 2,000 theologically equipped workers—a conservative figure, given the news that regularly pours in through social media—are dead in cities,” he told CT. “And the increasing number of dead servants of God is just the beginning of the woes.”
“We have never seen something like this in India,” said Finny Philip, an Indian board member of the Lausanne Movement, in an urgent video appeal for prayer. He explained, “Mass cremations and burials are happening. Dead bodies are lined up for the funeral pyre or dumped on the footpaths before they are cremated. Corpses are piled up inhumanely in hospitals, outside health centers, and in ambulances due to a shortage of space in the mortuaries. Yesterday, in the city of Bengaluru, the administration assigned 265 acres of land for burial and cremations to cope with the desperate situation. Local government bodies are converting city parks, car parks, and footpaths into temporary cremation spaces.”
Along with the declaration for a day of prayer and fasting, the joint organizations also quoted Deuteronomy 31:8 in their statement:
“’The LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.’ The LORD will never give up or leave us. Let us not be afraid or disappointed. We are people of hope. Let us not only pray for guidance in this time of disaster, but also help citizens in need and share the love of Christ. The love of God turns away all fear.”
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21, NKJV)
Father God, numerous church leaders and pastors, the light and salt of this land, are dying from COVID-19.
But, Lord Jesus, You are the great Shepherd of the sheep of India! In this land filled with harsh conditions and rampant idolatry, You will lead Your faithful churches to go forth. May they be filled with new strength and hope even as they fast. Help them to lead the people of India to see You, the One who brought us from death to life with the blood of the eternal new covenant.
Holy Spirit, would You comfort those who are in fear and sorrow, and anoint Your church to fully accomplish Your good work among the Indian people.
As they proclaim Your Word in faith, may the young generation of India rise up powerfully to lead the 1.3 billion people of India, who cannot see You through their idolatry, even during crises, to the only Savior and hope, Jesus Christ! Amen!