The headline read, “India Loses 3 Million Girls to Infanticide” (The Hindu, Oct. 9, 2012). This grisly revelation did not incite riots in India. The brutal gang rape of a young woman on Dec. 16 unleashed a sleeping giant, though. No one knows what act, event or headline will bring about lasting change.
The 23-year-old woman had just left the movie “The Life of Pi” with a male friend, when six men brandishing iron rods attacked the couple on their bus ride home. While both were beaten and tossed naked and bleeding to the side of the road, the woman was sexually assaulted with the rods.
The male friend said in an interview with Zee News, an Indian news channel, that neither Delhi police officers nor citizens came to their aid. “We were without clothes,” he said. “We tried to stop people passing by. After 25 minutes someone called the police. Then, after three police vans arrived, officers argued over who had jurisdiction over the case.” The man reports he had to carry his friend into the police vehicle after the police refused because she was bleeding too much. “Even at the hospital we were made to wait and I had to literally beg for clothes,” the woman’s friend said (“Rape Victim’s Friend Details Attack and Delays in Getting Help,” The New York Times, Jan. 4, 2013).
The woman passed away from multiple organ failure.
Millions of Indian women and girls, representing centuries of rape, dowry murders, acid attacks, honor killings, child marriages, trafficking, forced labor, forced abortion, and gross discrimination, have taken to the streets in the wake of this horrific crime. Their demands are just, should be taken seriously, and implemented post haste. Other protestors are calling on Hindu gods for justice. One protest organizer in the New York Times is quoted as saying, “We can only tackle this by becoming Durga,” referring to the female god who slays demons (“Indian Women March: ‘That Girl Could Have Been Any One of Us,’” The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2012).
As followers of Christ we need to ask, “Can laws and the consequences of breaking laws change the character of a nation?” And how can our faith impact this situation? What specific action should we take? Can we make a difference?
While the government is obligated to protect its citizens, Global Mission at David C Cook takes a different tact: We focus on the hearts of India’s children. Through a children’s ministry program in orphanages called J127 Clubs, our mission is to alter the spiritual DNA one child at a time. Our ultimate goal is to transform an entire nation for Jesus.
This 3-year discipleship program housed in orphanages and other facilities is based upon James 1:27, “True religion that God accepts is to care for orphans in their distress…” “Aunties” and “uncles,” a term of respect and affection in India, gently shepherd the children to heal from past trauma and to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Concerning women, girls and human rights, here are several lesson titles used in J127 Clubs: “Integrity,” “God Heals Dishonored Bodies,” “Self-Control,” “Courage,” “Forgiveness,” “Prejudice,” “Bullying,” “Anger Management,” and “Jesus Respects Women.” The topic is addressed in weeklong lessons broken down into three sections: creative biblical discipleship, character development, and life skills.
The last lesson mentioned, “Jesus Respects Women” is especially poignant given what’s currently happening in India. After studying several Bible stories on Jesus’ treatment of and regard for women, aunties and uncles (by way of the Holy Spirit) lead the children on a journey of understanding. As part of the study they are told:
As girls and boys growing up in India, you are a new generation who can help people change. Regardless of how society views someone, you can choose to see that person as Jesus sees him or her. You can treat each woman and man with respect.
Children interact with real-life stories about girls who are disrespected. Ironically, one account in the lesson deals with a gang of boys who trap a 5-year-old girl in a field. As the girl cries, one boy sneers, “You are just a no good, stupid girl. No one cares about you, and no one will care about what we are going to do to you.” The children then discuss what Jesus would say to the boys and what He would say to the little girl. Lifting up the dignity and value of women – of all human beings – is a message contrary to what culture currently tells them.
At the end of the lesson, the students are asked to list 10 gifted women, and after the name, what special thing she is able to do or what attribute she possesses.
While these may seem like heavy topics for children ages 8-12, they are situations many have faced. Orphans suffer from abandonment and most come from abuse, a human or sex trafficking situation, prostitution, chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS, life on the streets, or a lower caste where families are oppressed. They also battle ingrained Hindu beliefs that teach perspectives such as karma – mainly, that a person’s deeds in a past life decide his or her fate in this life. We address these issues directly, compassionately, and in an age-appropriate manner.
We currently have 87 J127 Clubs with 2,803 children enrolled. For us to duplicate this program farther and wider in India, we need sponsors to step up and adopt an existing club of children.* By linking arms with us, together we can witness a new generation of men and women standing firmly against evil out of a deep conviction, a respect for human life, and most importantly, a love for Jesus.
*Update: In 2018, David C Cook transferred oversight of the J127 clubs to an in-country partner which continues to shepherd and grow this program. By supporting David C Cook’s Life on Life curriculum, you will be helping support this program as well.