Though predominantly Hindu, India is also home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. One bold evangelist is making sure they hear the gospel, despite persecution from both Muslims and Hindus.
Harikiran was born into a Hindu family, but he came to know Christ at age 15 after his sister-in-law was healed from a lengthy illness. When modern medicine and witchcraft had failed to improve her condition, she and her family accepted a pastor’s invitation to visit his church. They soon came to know Christ, and Harikiran’s sister-in-law quickly recovered. “From that day,” he said, “we decided to follow Jesus.”
In his eagerness to share the peace and healing his family had experienced, Harikiran began telling others about his new Christian faith. As a result, he has faced many challenges over the past couple of decades as he has continued to tell others about Jesus. He has been arrested three times, jailed for a week, beaten, and harassed by a mob of Hindu activists. But none of these difficulties have hindered Harikiran from sharing the gospel. “If we save one woman or one man,” he said, “it will be worth it. Not a single person should be without God.”
Reaching the Unreached
Harikiran was pleased with the way Hindus were responding to his gospel outreach, but in 2018 a Christian friend and mentor told him about an unreached Muslim village fewer than 20 miles away. “Nobody is going there,” his friend said. “So you should go.”
Harikiran first visited the Muslim village in August 2018, introducing himself with a very simple and direct statement: “I am here to tell the Good News to you.”
He began by sharing stories about biblical figures like Abraham, Jacob and Esau, who are revered by both Muslims and Christians. And after about a month, the villagers asked him to start a church in their village.
As more people began to join the house church, however, the local mullah took notice. The Muslim leader saw that when villagers became Christians, they stopped coming to mosque and stopped donating food to him.
Realizing Harikiran’s evangelistic work was the cause of his dwindling pantry, the mullah decided it was time to act. His first call, surprisingly, was not to other Muslim leaders but to a local leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which seeks to make India a purely Hindu state. While the RSS may not approve of Muslims in India, they and the Muslims share an even greater disdain for Christians. Every village in India has a chapter of the RSS, and the mullah knew they would be more than happy to deal with this Christian evangelist.
The mullah’s second call was to Harikiran himself. He set a trap, inviting Harikiran to tell him about the gospel so the RSS could catch him in the act. Harikiran rode his motorbike to the mosque expecting to discuss Jesus with a Muslim leader, but instead he was quickly surrounded and beaten by a group of radical Hindus. When the police arrived, they took him to the police station for his own protection. The angry Hindus remained outside the station for four hours, shouting insults, throwing stones and even damaging the motorbike he relied on for his ministry work.
A Surprising Apology
A couple of days later, after tensions had eased, Harikiran discussed the incident with his Christian friend at home. He told his friend that far from being discouraged, he praised God for the opportunity to suffer for the truth. “I understand this is a sign that I must continue reaching Muslims,” he told him.
Just then, another Christian friend called, warning Harikiran that four RSS members were on their way to his house. The four men had been asking his friends and neighbors about him, and everyone had told them how Harikiran and his family selflessly served the community. When the men arrived at his home, Harikiran invited them in and served them drinks. With guilty looks, the men said, “You are a good person. We were wrong, and we are sorry.” They then invited him back to their village to continue leading the church group under RSS protection.
Harikiran continues to serve and tell others about Jesus in the Muslim village. He even gave a New Testament to the mullah, who has apologized for reporting him to the RSS and often joins church gatherings to listen. Even more surprisingly, the RSS leader now attends Harikiran’s church; although he has not yet been baptized, Harikiran said the former Hindu militant believes in Jesus.
VOM has replaced Harikiran’s damaged motorbike to help him continue his gospel outreach in the area, but he still pays a price for following Christ. He has trouble finding and keeping a job because Hindus do not want to hire a convert to Christianity.
Despite the financial struggles and other ongoing hardships, Harikiran knows he has taken the right path. “If I would disobey him, I would not have persecution,” he said. “But only Jesus can give eternal life, and we are hungry for eternal life. Jesus said to choose the narrow way.”
Harikiran’s most urgent prayer is that God will continue to use him and send him more places to share the gospel, especially among the overlooked Muslims of northern India.