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Missionary Spotlight – India

August 1997

Over 1,200,000 square miles. Bounded by China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

To the north there are the Himalayan mountains and in the plains the great rivers of Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra.

India, with over 900 million people, is predicted to overtake China soon as the world’s most populous country.

Capital: New Delhi; twenty cities with over one million people, including Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Bangalore.

Great ethnic and linguistic diversity exists; ten languages are spoken in Bombay alone.

There has been much industrial development since the 1960s but most people work on the land. Nearly half the population are in deep poverty.

Exports include tea, coffee, fish, iron, steel, leather, textiles, clothing, engineering goods and chemicals.

Religions: 79% Hindu; 12% Muslim; 2% Sikh; 0.7% Buddhist; 1.5% tribal animists; 1.8% Roman Catholic; 1% other;

2% Protestant (about half of these profess to be evangelical). The main denominations are Church of South India; Church of North India; Baptist Churches of north east India; Lutherans; Samavesam of Telugu; Mar Thoma Syrian Church; Evangelical Church of India. Presbyterians, Pentecostals and independent Baptists are also represented.

Hinduism has a rigid system of social stratification or castes, with Brahmans at the top and ‘scheduled castes’ (untouchables) at the bottom. Untouchables handle animal products rubbish, and human wastes. Discrimination against the latter was made illegal in 1947, but most groups in India are still strongly influenced by caste thinking.