Comprising eight nations (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), South Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Over 35 million Christians live in South Asia. Yet they remain a small minority in a region inhabited by one billion Hindus and 600 million Muslims. Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI), ScholarLeaders works with five schools in India: South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, Shalom Bible Seminary in Kohima, Oriental Theological Seminary in Dimapur, Evangelical Theological Seminary in Hosur, and the Centre for Global Leadership Development in Bangalore. Our South Asia VSI cohort also includes Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sri Lanka. In addition, the Centre for South Asia Research at SAIACS (India) is a collaborative ministry of SAIACS, the Theological Book Network, and ScholarLeaders International.
Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders has supported 50 Christian leaders from three South Asian nations (Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka), including eight scholars currently. Pakistan is the only nation established in the name of Islam. Constitutionally, all Pakistani laws must conform to the Quran. The country has a large economy and a rising middle class but also faces challenges related to illiteracy, corruption, and terrorism. Of the nation’s 225 million people, more than 96% are Muslims. Just over 1% are Christians, but the Church continues to persevere and grow despite persecution. Learn about the Church’s historical relationship with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the strongest barriers to missions, and Muslims’ most common objections to Christianity in this 2016 feature on Gloria Calib’s prophetic leadership. For a Christian response to religious extremism, read Maqsood Kamil’s 2016 Insights Perspective.
Sharing its northwestern border with Pakistan, India is home to over 1.3 billion people, 80% of whom are Hindus. As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India has seen tremendous change over the last 30 years. Although the percentage of Indians living below the global poverty line has decreased, economic inequality has increased. Internal migration and urban growth have strained infrastructure and challenged traditions and identities. Since 2014, mounting Hindu nationalism has increased pressure on religious minorities. Learn about Manohar James’s distinctive response to Hindu nationalist persecution and “re-conversions” of Christians back to Hinduism here. After Hinduism, Islam is the second largest religion in India. With around 180 million Muslims, India has the third largest Muslim population in the world (behind Indonesia and Pakistan). Although fewer than 3% of Indians are Christians, the Church is still 30 million-strong and growing. The Church needs leaders who can shepherd new believers and help address the subcontinent’s unique contextual needs. The recent COVID surge in India has killed 380 thousand people, including thousands of theologically trained Christian workers. Yet the Church’s sacrificial service has also stood out like a beacon, as believers continue to share the gospel of hope.
A large island just southeast of India, Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism in the world. 70% of its 22 million people practice Buddhism. The rest are Hindus (13%), Muslims (10%), and Christians (7%). The teardrop-shaped island nation has seen plenty of tears in recent years: ethnic riots, the 2004 tsunami, and 26 years of civil war. Lal Senanayake’s 2019 InSights Perspective offers reflections on understanding suffering in light of God’s character. Presently, political stability has led to increased economic growth and development. Although nearly 85% of Sri Lankans remain in rural areas, the country has a remarkably high literacy rate of 92%. Most of Sri Lanka’s 1.5 million Christians are Roman Catholic. Although Evangelicals comprise only 2% of the population, they have continued to grow at twice the rate of the general population.
Photo: Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, India by Raghu Nayyar (Unsplash)
Even after COVID-19, JETS will offer both online and face-to-face programs. We believe we can serve West Africa and the rest of Africa better through these two options. Pray for that plan, especially for good internet and for a solar power system that will keep the internet stable.read more