South Asia

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. 35 million Christians live in South Asia, but they remain a small minority in a region inhabited by 900 million Hindus and 510 million Muslims.

Through the Vital Sustainability Initiative (VSI), Scholar Leaders has collaborated 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. The South Asia VSI cohort also included Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sri Lanka.

Through Leader Studies, Scholar Leaders has supported 56 Christian leaders, including 10 currently, from South Asia. Scholar Leaders also supports 2 women scholars from India for our pilot ThM program in partnership with Duke Divinity School. Most of the South Asian scholars in our Fellowship live and serve in Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka.

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 241 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 Global Insights. Pray for our Pakistani sisters and brothers, as they hold fast to the word of life, serve their communities in Jesus’ name, and share Christ’s truth and love with their neighbors.

Sharing its northwestern border with Pakistan, India is home to over 1.4 billion people, 80% of whom are Hindus. After Hinduism, Islam is the second largest religion in India. With around 196 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. 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. In his 2013 Global Insights, Atul Aghamkar reflects on India’s growing urban churches. In his 2022 Global Insights, Matthias Gergan considers questions of being and belonging among India’s Himalayan Christians. Since 2014, mounting Hindu nationalism across the country 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. Pray for India’s Christian leaders as they shepherd new believers and guide the Church’s response to the subcontinent’s unique contextual needs.

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, 26 years of civil war, and financial crisis leading to protests that toppled a president in 2022.  In his 2019 Global Insights, Lal Senanayake reflects on suffering in light of God’s character. 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. Pray for the Sri Lankan Church’s witness and ministry as the country struggles to recover from economic and political crisis.

Photo: Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, India by Raghu Nayyar (Unsplash)

Prayer Community

Vital SustainAbility: India Cohort

We have been working on contingencies for all our ministries in light of COVID-19. In India, we are currently under a nationwide lockdown, one of the most stringent in the world. This has caused difficulties for us in arranging food supplies for our campus, but the Lord has provided ways for us to get by. We have 70 students on our campus who were unable to leave before the shutdown. Daily wage workers, however, are facing a serious threat of starvation. We are currently working to supply 500 families with food for the next four weeks.

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Prayer Community

Stavan John in India

Before the pandemic and lockdown, I experienced an epiphany that I would like to share. It was during my recent study trip to the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS). I was asked to speak in the chapel, so I chose a passage dear to my heart: Mark 9:14-29. This passage focuses on the desperation of a father whose child is demon-possessed. Jesus heals the child, but not before addressing the father’s doubt, through both rebuke and empathy. As someone who has struggled with doubt myself, this was a good reminder.

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Atul Aghamkar in India

The sudden shutdown of India, due to COVID-19, has taken all of us by surprise! This has led to massive confusion, as people do not know how to respond. Factories, shops, industries, offices, schools, and colleges have been shut down. Public and private transportation have completely ceased to function. People are prevented from going out of their homes, and those who venture out are beaten by the police. Heavy restrictions limit people’s movements. The shutdown has drastically affected people’s lives. While life at every level has been disturbed, the poorest of the poor are the ones most deeply affected by this shutdown.

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Prayer Community

Kesolenuo Suokhrie from Nagaland, India

My doctoral research focuses on social justice, particularly for immigrants. This interest comes from my own experiences working with Karen refugees, displaced by communal violence, at the Thai-Myanmar border and in Australia. In my own context, the influx of Muslim Bangladeshis into Nagaland has led to serious issues. To the natives, immigrants are outsiders who are invading our land, exhausting our resources, and threatening the identities of our indigenous peoples.

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Coronavirus Impact

Like almost everyone, ScholarLeaders has felt COVID-19’s impact. This week, please join us in prayer for a situation that has reached over 180 countries. First, we pray for those infected by the virus and those who have lost loved ones. We pray that the most vulnerable among us would be protected. We pray too for those facing quarantines, travel and employment restrictions, financial pressures in shrinking economies, new caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities, and limited supplies.

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Manohar James from India

Eighty percent of the rural pastors in India, especially non-denominational or non-affiliated church planters and pastors, have very little knowledge of the Word of God because they enter ministry with no theological training or in-depth bible knowledge. They seldom have a spiritual mentor. With great passion, faith, and hard work, they successfully plant churches, but are not able to nourish new believers in the Word, since they cannot offer what they do not possess.

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Maqsood Kamil in Pakistan

Maqsood is Vice Principal of Gujranwala Theological Seminary, which trains 80% of church leaders for all major Protestant denominations in Pakistan. He recently completed his PhD in Islamic Studies at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (UK). His research on Christian-Muslim debates in 19th-century India will provide valuable insights for interreligious dialogue in Islamic contexts.

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Sutrisna Harjanto in Indonesia

Please pray for God’s wisdom in my leadership at Bandung Theological Seminary (BTS). It is a great opportunity to be able to lead in this God-given moment to develop theological education with a holistic vision, to bring the whole gospel to impact the whole society with the whole church.

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Eva Wong Suk Kyun from Malaysia

I am currently in my fifth year of PhD studies at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) in the United Kingdom. My research examines the extent to which the practice of the Assemblies of God of Malaysia has changed, with respect to its espoused Pentecostal Theology, since its inception in 1957 to the present day.

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Nok Kam from Myanmar

I ask for your intercessory prayer for my people and my country, Myanmar, which is full of conflicts between the Burmese military and ethnic minorities. Christians and ethnic minorities have been tortured by the military for a long time. Consequently, many ethnic groups are seeking refuge in neighboring countries and in Western countries as well. Please do pray for the total dismantling of military power in the Union government.

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Prayer Community

Patrick from Hong Kong

In last seven months, the pro-democracy anti-extradition protests have completely changed Hong Kong. The protests started as peaceful marches against the extradition bill. However, violence and clashes between protestors and police erupted when the nonviolent protests failed to effect change. To date, police have arrested over 6,000 people and have fired more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas in the city.

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Michelle Mingyue Kang in China

As the social environment gets more complicated, believers are facing a host of issues related to the family, such as extramarital affairs, homophobia, questions related to sex education and social services, etc. Due to a lack of academically trained professors, and a dearth of Christian writers and researchers, Chinese theological education cannot build itself up and remains ill-equipped to tackle these issues.

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