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Issue: "Crossing borders," June 23, 2007

It's an anecdote that sums up Salim Munayer's frustration not only with American evangelicals but also with the two groups he hopes to reconcile: Arabs and Israelis. "Before religious or any other kind of reconciliation comes about," Munayer said, "all parties involved, including American evangelicals, are going to have to learn the meaning of-and get comfortable with-new ideas."

Missing messenger

Indian Christian leader kidnapped

By Jill Nelson

Sudha Simon undoubtedly began to worry when her husband did not return home after a Saturday evening errand run on June 9. The 4 a.m. phone call she received from him the next morning did little to assuage her fears: "Help, I have been kidnapped! They are beating me to death!" came the voice of her husband. Then the line went dead.

With the recent increase in attacks against Christians in India, the possibility exists that Charles Simon, an Indian national, was kidnapped by religious fanatics. The husband-and-wife team direct the high-profile Kids for the Kingdom ministry in the Indian city of Chennai (formerly known as Madras), a weekly outreach that gives more than 2,000 children warm, nutritious meals and spiritual truths through its Bible Clubs ("Poor but blessed," Sept. 27, 2003).

But details surrounding the kidnapping are sketchy. Police traced the frantic call to a cell phone tower near a Chennai slum. On June 12 a girl from the slum told police that on the night of the abduction she heard a man scream, "Jesus, help me!" As she peered out her window, she witnessed four or five men pushing a man into the darkness. Police have launched a neighborhood search, according to Kids for the Kingdom International Director Greg Dabel (who also is a correspondent for WORLD).

With no tangible evidence of radical religious involvement, it is possible that street thugs orchestrated the abduction. Police also told Dabel they suspect that Simon might have been kidnapped by a gang that harvests and sells human organs.

Attacks targeting believers are slightly less common in India's southern states where Christians comprise almost 5 percent of the population compared to less than 3 percent in the rest of the nation. Chennai, the fourth largest city in India, is the capital of Tamil Nadu, a major center of Christianity.

But throughout the rest of the nation there is growing anti-Christian sentiment and attempts to gain support for Hindu nationalistic goals. Several hundred Christians marched in the streets of New Delhi May 29, protesting the government's apathetic response to the growing persecution of minorities.

Recording and televising these attacks is the latest attempt to generate hostility. Private national news channels are now airing video of Christians being beaten by World Hindu Council militants and members of its youth wing, reports Compass Direct. While the televised beatings could incite more, they also give Christian activists the documented evidence they need to prove the existence of anti-Christian violence in the region.

Hindu doctrine teaches that the suffering of the poor-an estimated 200 million Indians-is penance for wrongdoings in a former life. Improving their circumstances could hinder advancement in the life to come. The Bible clubs led by the Simons and others in India tell a different story: The children recite verses, sing worship songs, and learn about biblical truths and hope in Christ.

As the Chennai ministry is put on hold while the search continues for Simon, the silence is deafening: "No one even knows the location or circumstances of the abduction," Dabel said. But as ministry directors mobilize prayer units, comfort Simon's wife, and assist police in the search, they are hoping-and praying-for a miracle.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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