Brethren in Christ Church Orissa, Inida

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History: In 1982, a new ministry of the Brethren In Christ Church (BIC) was started in what at the time was known as the Indian state of Orissa. (In 2011, the Indian government changed the name of the Orissa state to Odisha.) Three years after the beginning of this ministry, in 1985, the Orissa BIC church became independent conference. Some central focuses of the Orissa BIC church have been evangelism, service, and peacemaking. The church has sent missionaries to Nepal. In 2008, the church celebrated their 25th Anniversary. During 2008, as well, they suffered violence from Hindu extremists targeting Christians. This violence included the destruction of the Adivasi Grace Children's Hostel of the BIC church. In response to this violence, the BIC church has contributed to a community peace building initiative. As of 2013, they had 155 congregations with 5,830 members. In 2013, the church finished construction on a church building in the village of Nuagaon, which will able to hold five hundred people for large church gatherings such as their Annual Prayer Meeting and their Leadership Training program.

Ministries of Church: The ministries of the BIC church include both spiritual and social and economic development programs. Spiritual ministries include Church Sunday Service; Sunday School;Youth Fellowship; women’s fellowship; a Lay Leadership Training Program; an annual Prayer Conference, radio ministry; and outreach to villages, neighboring Indian states and to Nepal. Social and economic development programs of the church include an Adult Literacy project; Children Education project; providing safe drinking water; Agricultural assistance; a health and hygiene program; Tree Planting; Medical Projects; Education assistance; an economic Self-supporting projects. The BIC church hosts the Adivasi Grace Hostel in Nuagaon, Odisha, welcoming 450 children. Run by the Scholarship Program for International Children’s Education (SPICE), through BIC World Missions program, the hostel provides school children from isolated rural areas the opportunity to live close by to where they attend school. Another focus of the church is to promote community and interfaith peace. The church has contributed to a Peace Building Projects initiative in response to the violence against Christians including BIC that occurred in 2008. Anabaptist Identity Today: The BIC church in Odisha has connected to the Anabaptist story in active and profound ways. In regards to Christian discipleship, the church places a focus on daily bible reading and prayer including family prayer, individual, fasting prayer, prayer chains. With relation to peacemaking, the Odisha church has taken an active role in pursuing reconciliation and interfaith and community harmony through such means as the Peace Building Projects initiative. In a remarkable example of reconciliation, the president of the Peace and Harmony Committee steering these projects is a man who was the main leader of the Anti-Christian Hindu party in the area, who lead the attacks on Christians in 2008. The BIC church connects also to the Anabaptism story through their pursuit of economic and social well-being shalom: Says church chairman, Bijoy K. Roul, “we believe in seeking justice and sharing our resources, be they material, financial or spiritual.” In relation to Anabaptist history, Roul cites the nineteenth-century Brethren in Christ leader H. B. Musser : “I think it is the duty of the church to mutually aid each other in the losses sustained. . . I think it is the duty that belongs to us, because the Scripture says, ‘Bear ye one another’s burden.’” One way the church seeks social well-being for all is through work among the lowest castes and others who are among the most needy such as lepers and slum dwellers. (B K Roul, 2014).

Major Challenges: One major challenge for the BIC church is the economic conditions of their area. Many people do not have safe drinking water and many are often limited to one meal a day. Odisha is one of the poorest states in India. Another issue is religious freedom and tolerance. Baptism of non-believers is banned by the state. In 1999, a missionary, Graham Stains, and his two sons were burned alive by Hindu militants. In 2000, a BIC pastor was beheaded. In 2008, Laxmananda Saraswati, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) anti-Christian militant group, was killed. Though the government believed a Maoist Anti-Communal Forces group to be responsible for this violence, the VHP blamed Christians for this killing and targeting them in a wave of violence, which in Orissa included destroying Christians' property, churches, and the Adivasi Grace Hostel children's hostel. Future of Church: The Odisha BIC church is currently growing at a steady pace. They have the initiative to train leaders for the church every year. In 2005, this meant training 100 future leaders in the areas of “Christian living, prayer, and worship; Discipleship and peacemaking; Christian witness and sharing the gospel with others; Social development of the villages; Self supporting and self governing churches” (B K Roul, 2005). These leaders then train another set of leaders the following year. Along with spreading the gospel, a long term goal of the BIC church is to improve the socio-economic condition of their local regions (B K Roul, 2014).


                                                      Referenced

Bicodishaindia.org/

Brethren In Christ Church. (2008, November 18). BIC Church in Orissa, India commemorates 25 years of ministry in the midst of persecution. Retrieved from [1]

Burkhardt,, F. (2008, September 24). Leader from BIC Church in India reports on violence in Orissa. Retrieved from [2]

Mennonite World Conference. (2013, May 6). Church and community hall a place for district gatherings. Retrieved from [3]

Mixed views emerge as Orissa becomes Odisha : North, News - India Today. (2006, November 6). Retrieved from [4]

Roul, B. K. (2005). Helping our people socially and spiritually. Courier, 20(1), 4-5. Retrieved from [5]

Roul, A. A. (2011). Interfaith Peacebuilding in Orissa. Shalom! A Journal for the Practice of Reconciliation , 31(3), 7-10. Retrieved from [6]

Roul, B. K. (2014, June 14). A Mission Modeled on Christ. Retrieved from [7]