The head of a leading Christian action group in the Indian state of Gujarat has called on Christians not to abandon their "evangelical mission" because of threats from Hindu fundamentalists.

"India is a free country, and the people have freedom to preach their religion," Gideon Peter, coordinator of the Gujarat branch of Operation Mobilization India (OMI), told ENI. OMI is an evangelical network based in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. OMI has 600 active members from various denominations distributing biblical literature, training Christian workers and running community-development programs.

Gujarat is currently in the news in India and abroad because of the earthquake which killed tens of thousands of people in the state on January 26, and is particularly well known to Christians because of attacks on churches by Hindu fundamentalists in Gujarat in recent years.

Interviewed in his office in Ahmedabad, a city of three million people, Peter, who heads 40 OMI staff in Gujarat, said that "true Christians should never be scared of attacks. We should preach what we believe."

Asked by ENI whether mainline churches in India had stopped evangelization because they feared attacks by Hindu extremists, Peter, who is a member of the Church of North India, said: "We are so much self-oriented that we are scared of anything that might come our way. There are many who want to play safe. But it will not solve the problem.

"If they [Hindu fundamentalists] are attacking us without understanding us, we can only counter it by trying to educate them. Maybe we need to suffer for the faith in the process," said Peter whose staff has been attacked in recent months by Hindu groups including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council).

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