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A Christian Encounter in a Hindu Indian Village with Set Free Alliance

6 Min Read

Mar 27, 2024

Set Free’s mission is to serve people by meeting their most basic human needs. We focus on immediate challenges the communities we serve face in order to make a long-term impact and an eternal difference through the introduction of Jesus’ love.

One of our core values is to empower our indigenous partners to have the resources they need to serve these communities in their own country. We believe in working alongside our partners but trust that they are the experts in their own community, cultural norms, language, and navigating religious barriers.

While working to meet these humanitarian needs and build relationships with villages that may have not heard the name of Jesus, we must first meet them at the intersection of differing religious and cultural practices.

It’s not our mission to force Christianity in any way, but rather to show the unconditional love that Jesus represents through our actions and services. As the state-side fundraising wing of Set Free we lean on our in-country partner’s guidance on how to approach villages that may be primarily Hindu in a respectful way as we aim to provide services like clean water and medical care in the name of Jesus.

Hinduism and It’s Role in Indian Culture:

Hinduism is more than a religion – it’s integrated deeply in the Indian culture and has been since the country’s origin. From ways of greeting each other, what they wear, to how they eat, talk, and holidays they celebrate. These things are so deeply rooted in Indian culture, they go far beyond religious beliefs. This is true for countless places around the world, the prominent religions of the region, often play a large role in the culture that is created. It’s not our goal to erase the parts of Indian culture that were shaped centuries ago by Hinduism, but rather, come alongside, understanding the role Hinduism plays in Indian culture and introducing Jesus’ love and message by serving.

Understanding The Caste System and It’s Role in Hindu Villages

The caste system is defined as “one of the hereditary social classes of Hinduism that restricts the occupation of their members and their association with the members of other castes sanctioned by custom, law or religion.” More so, the caste system is so deeply embedded in Indian culture, it often surpasses the boundaries of religious affiliation. So, when someone of a higher class decides to become a Christian and profess their faith publicly, even though they do not practice Hinduism, the religious customs will still affect them. The upper castes around them will view them as complete outcasts – vile, and unclean.

The Dalits are so low in the caste-system that they fall below the four main recognized groups: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. The Dalits are completely shunned from society. They are viewed as having less value than a cow. They live their lives in constant fear of being beaten, raped, or lynched for walking down the wrong street, drinking from the wrong fountain, etc.  of people is born into this position with no hope of escape.

It’s important to understand the role the Caste System plays in Indian culture and for our partners as they visit primarily Hindu villages. It must be understood that every aspect of life for Hindu villages can be defined by the caste of you and your family. It’s the Dalits that we often serve with clean water, medical care, and aid to prevent and rescue children from slavery.

The Importance of Set Free’s Holistic Mission When Visiting Villages:

When our partners visit villages, they often notice that the problems villagers face are all intertwined – a domino effect.

Specifically, when visiting a predominantly Dalit (Untouchable) village, which are the villages Set Free aims to serve, we notice that there is not a source for clean water in the village. Instead, children must trek on average 3.5 miles each way, each day to collect water from a nearby stream or swamp – shared with the farm animals, used also as a place to wash clothes, etc. This water is often contaminated and filthy. And yet, it’s their only option. They must drink this water if they want to live.

Although this water keeps the Dalits alive – sometimes – it often makes them very, very sick. So sick that fathers are missing work and mothers and children resort to begging. In this desperation, loan agents take advantage. They seek out villages and families in these exact situations and offer them a predatory loan, meaning that, because the Dalit families are illiterate, they are agreeing to a lie.

The loan agents convince the family that they will give them a loan – typically in the amount of only $68, and all the family has to do is pay it back. If they cannot pay it back, their children can go work for the loan agent and pay it back on their family’s behalf and then go home.

But with no clean water to stop getting sick, fathers still can’t work to earn money to pay back the loan. And when the loan agent comes back to collect and the family cannot repay the amount, their children are not sent to work for money, they are taken as slaves. Once these children are taken, they are sold to mine owners who enslave the children in slate mines where they must work in cruel conditions and suffer cruel treatment.

This cycle of abuse in Dalit villages begins with dirty water.

That’s why our mission is 4 pronged when our partners visit Hindu Dalit villages. To assess the dirty water situation and drill a well, host a medical clinic to treat illnesses, assess what children have been taken in the village or could be taken, pay off any outstanding loans so those children remain safe, and begin looking for those that were taken through our network of 11,000 pastors across India. And finally, through this service, done only in love and with no contingencies, our partners share that Jesus loves the Dalits and calls them unconditionally worthy.

Entrusting and Empowering

We firmly believe that there is no one better to make a difference through clean water, medical care, and fighting child slavery in the name of Jesus than our indigenous partners. We fully trust their understanding of the roles Hinduism plays when visiting villages, and how crucial it is in our reflection of our beliefs in Jesus to come peacefully and respectfully. Our partners meet villages where they are, free of judgement, and come alongside them to serve them by meeting urgent needs and making each person they encounter feel worthy of the service and love they receive.

How You Can Make a Difference Through Set Free

  1. Spread the word – share what you’ve learned about our ministry with your family, friends, or small group at church
  2. Pray – we believe that one of the most powerful ways to make a difference is to simply go to God in prayer
  3. Give – make an immediate impact through generous giving

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