Partners International has been partnering with Bible Faith Mission (BFM) to bring economic, social, and spiritual transformation to the Dalits of South India since 1984. BFM’s church-planting strategy follows the biblical mandate of holistic transformation, which addresses the needs of the whole person, both physical and spiritual. Today, BFM is a key force in the establishment and development of the Dalit Church throughout India.
Reaching the neglected people groups of India
India is a country diverse in language, caste, religion, and culture with a staggering 4,635 distinct people groups. Hinduism claims about 80 percent of the Indian population, with Islam at 12 percent and Christianity at 2.4 percent.
Though India is a secular and democratic country, the call for “Hindutva” (return to Hinduism) is growing in strength. Several states have enacted strong anti-conversion laws which hamper evangelism and ministry efforts. Christians in North India, particularly Orissa, have undergone intense persecution in recent years.
Nearly one-third of India’s one billion people are known as Dalits or “untouchables”—outcast peoples who suffer social discrimination and economic hardship. The majority of India’s Christians come from this group, though not without great cost. Dalits who leave Hinduism for Christianity lose their place in the government quota for education and job opportunities. Thus, they are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty with few ways to improve their lot in life.
Legislation to reverse this inequity has been bogged down in the courts for years. Many believe if this law was passed, thousands, if not millions, of Dalits would come to Christ.
Despite the overt injustice they face, thousands of Dalits are finding, for the first time, true freedom and dignity through salvation in Jesus.