BY WILLIAM STARK
New on the Job
This past fall and winter, everyone here at ICC has been very excited about something I have come to call the “Nagapattinam boat project.” I started as the Regional Manager position in September, and being new, I wanted to get to the bottom of this project so I could share in everyone’s excitement. Instead of taking the easy route and asking someone what the Nagapattinam boat project was, I decided to do the research on my own. It wasn’t long before I learned the wonderful story of how we at ICC were able to provide for the persecuted Christians of Nagapattinam.
In the little village of Nagapattinam, located on India’s eastern coast, people make their living by fishing. For generations, Christians and Hindus lived and fished together. There was some underlying tension between the two communities, but that had never stopped them from being able to fish side by side. To bring in their daily catch, the villagers shared community boats.
A Drastic Change
On June 23, everything changed. A mob of Hindu extremists, attached to the Bharathia Janatha Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), invaded the village, attacked Christians and ordered their Hindu neighbors not to affiliate with them. The extremists destroyed the Christians’ house of worship and beat several people with iron rods and sticks.
As a result of this attack, two Christians were hospitalized and the entire Christian population in Nagapattinam was cut off from their way of life. You see, because of the extremists order to not affiliate with Christians, Hindus in the village banned them from using the community boats. As money and food became tighter, some newly converted families considered returning to Hinduism so that they could avoid starvation.
Many of these persecuted Christians began borrowing money from money lenders—no better than criminal loan sharks here in the U.S. On June 28, ICC’s contacts in India were informed of the attack in Nagapattinam and the struggles faced by the persecuted Christians cut off from the fishing boats on which their lives depended. When initially contacted by ICC’s representatives in India, the persecuted Christians of Nagapattinam expected help in the form of groceries, clothes and other living essentials; things that would only help them in the short term. They never expected the outpouring of love they would receive from their brothers and sisters in Christ who lived a world away.
A Hand of Hope Extended
After several meetings, it was decided that ICC would provide the persecuted Christians of Nagapattinam with something that would help them long term; we to provide them with a fleet of new fishing boats; a fleet that would be owned solely by the Christians community. When the persecuted Christians of Nagapattinam were told that ICC would be purchasing fishing boats for them, they did not believe it. One villager said, “How can this happen? These people have never seen us, never met us and never knew us. Why would they provide us with such a big help?”
Initially, ICC planed on purchasing three boats for the persecuted Christians in Nagapattinam. In order to do this, we initiated a special giving campaign to raise money. When more donations than expected continued to flow in we realized we could purchase five boats, five engines and five sets of fishing equipment. The extra boats would help the Christians, who are very poor, to not only provide for their needs, but to also raise their standard of living.
When all of the fully equipped boats were delivered to Nagapattinam, the persecuted Christians thought they were in a dream. Some took as long as two days to believe they were actually the owners of the new boats. One woman in the village turned to ICC’s contact in India and said, “We were not just given boats, but given new life.”
I was fortunate enough to be part of the implementation phase of this project. It is a great story of how Christians from the West were able to intimately assist their persecuted brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. It is projects like these that help refocus me on what it truly means to be one body in Christ.