A missionary’s murder that shocked the world 20 years ago is the focus of a movie opening in theaters this weekend — and its filmmakers hope the project helps spark a renewed interest in long-term missions.
“The Least of These” (PG-13) tells the story of Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who took medicine and the Gospel to India’s lepers and was killed in 1999 for allegedly violating the region’s laws against “forced” conversions. A subsequent investigation cleared his name and showed that everyone who became a Christian did so willingly.
The film stars Stephen Baldwin as Staines; Shari Rigby (“October Baby,” “Overcomer”) as his wife Gladys; and Sharman Joshi as Manav, a newspaper journalist investigating Staines.
The movie was shot in India and used mostly Indian actors. “This is a true story that happened in my part of the world where I literally grew up,” Victor Abraham, the film’s executive producer, told The Alabama Baptist.
“Because of the sensitivity of the subject, the legality of conversion is still a toxic issue in India,” he said. “Anti-conversion laws do exist. Part of it is the protection of their own culture. Part of it is threat.”
On Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution, India ranks No. 10. Eight of India’s 29 states have some form of anti-conversion law, according to the Library of Congress. They prohibit conversion from Hinduism to Christianity or another faith by “forcible” or “fraudulent” means or by “allurement” or “inducement,” according to the library. The penalty for violating them is up to three years in prison. All allegations must be investigated — an action that by itself can intimidate religious minorities.
In 2017, 10 Christians were arrested for taking Hindu children to a Christian camp, even though the parents had approved the trips.
“These cases bring a deep sense of insecurity among Christians who cannot freely practice their faith in the state where anti-conversions laws have been enacted,” Alliance Defense Freedom International said in a 2018 report.
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Source: Baptist Press