Partners International has been partnering with BFM since 1984 to bring economic, social, and spiritual transformation to the Dalits and tribes of India. 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.
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 13 percent and Christianity at just 2 percent. Though India is a secular and democratic country, the call for a 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 the state of Orissa, have undergone intense persecution in recent years.
Nearly one-third of India’s 1.2 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 faith in Jesus Christ.