I love movies based on true stories. It’s fascinating to realize, “This really happened!”
While watching, I often have my laptop searching online for the real people – what did they really look like? What juicy details were left out? What happened later?
I guess it’s the writer – or researcher – or short attention span in me that just has to know more.
And the “spoiler alert” is buzzing loudly for the person watching alongside me (poor hubby) as I find it necessary to voice all that I’m learning behind the scenes as the movie is still playing.
I only do this at home by the way. I’m sure I would quickly be thrown out of a theater for such exceedingly annoying behavior. But when it comes to true stories, there is much more to the story than what you see on the screen. The Least of These, a movie playing at U.S. theaters now, is no exception.
Sharing Christ in India as a medical missionary
The Least of These is based on the life of Graham Staines, an Australian medical missionary who was murdered in 1999, along with his two sons, for his work among lepers. Staines (played by Stephen Baldwin) and his wife (played by Shari Rigby of October Baby) poured out their lives to help those no one else was willing to help.
But one night while 58-year-old Staines and his sons were sleeping in their station wagon outside a church, a mob of radical Hindus poured kerosene on the vehicle. Staines along with Philip (10) and Timothy (7) were consumed by fire. He had been working among the tribal poor and lepers since 1965 from his early 20’s.
The film follows a young journalist who is set on finding Staines in violation of India’s anti-conversion laws. Though Staines was verbally accused of forcibly converting Hindu people to Christianity, charges were never made formal. Still, he lost his life, along with his two innocent children. And yet his wife Gladys and daughter Esther gave expression to the love of Christ through their forgiveness and continued work in India.
The Least of These was filmed in India with primarily Indian actors and shines a light on the persecution of Christians. If you look beyond the edges of the screen and into the 21st century, you’ll see that the Staines’ story bleeds into today’s reality.
Persecution grows since 2014.
According to ADF International, A faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people, anti-conversion laws are actively enforced in seven of India’s twenty-nine states: Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh. The laws are cleverly camouflaged in the term “Freedom of Religion Act[s].”
Under the Acts, a person can be fined or imprisoned if accused of converting or attempting to convert a person from one religious faith to another by the use of force, inducement, or by any fraudulent means. In addition, a person can be held liable for failure to send a notice to or seek permission from the district magistrate before converting or participating in a conversion ceremony (emphasis added).
Though the Census reflects a 3% Christian population in India, many who convert to Christianity keep it secret. Persecution has grown more rampant since the current ruling party took power in 2014. Interestingly, this movie will be released in India on March 1st.
According to Open Doors USA, a community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries, Hindu radicals believe they can attack Christians with no consequences. In some regions, converts to Christianity from Hinduism experience extreme persecution, discrimination, and violence.
It’s happening today. But when it’s out of sight, out of mind, we tend to forget about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who experience lives of sacrificial love and faithfulness – a kind that is foreign to us.
I encourage you to see The Least of These (rated PG13), and let it move you to intercede for others in the body who are suffering for the sake of Christ.