An Ancient City with Great Need
It is said that the city of Varanasi in India is the oldest, continuously inhabited city on earth. Known for being the spiritual capital of Hinduism, it is also the place where Buddha claimed to have reached enlightenment. But there are also Muslims in this ancient city: a small community of them in the heart of the city who are famous for hand weaving silk cloths. Some are known to be the best textile craftsmen in the world.
This city is a fascinating place, but a spiritually dark community and is in dire need of the gospel.
Varanasi draws many religious pilgrims. Thousands gather each night to participate in worship rituals conducted by young Hindu Brahmins to seek the blessing of the goddess of the river Ganges. Buddhist monks travel long distances at great cost to visit the site where Buddha delivered his first sermons after “enlightenment”.
On the banks of the Ganges bodies of deceased Hindus are baptized and then put on piles to be burned. There is a continuous stream of the dead who are brought here to be cremated in this way. Hindus believe the reincarnation cycle is ended by being cremated at Varanasi in order for the soul to reach Nirvana.
On our short visit to go to pray for the light of the gospel to break through in this place, we had a couple of brief opportunities to share the good news of Christ. Our taxi driver said that many in his family were Christian (which would be very unusual for someone in Varanasi), but he knew almost nothing about Jesus. Another man refused to hear anything about Jesus because he claimed Hinduism was better than Christianity because it was an older religion. Shortly after that, he offered to sell drugs to us.
We didn’t witness any breakthroughs on our visit but we were glad to visit this dark place and pray for the gospel to come in power in the lives of the people. The visit was a reminder that there remains a desperate need for the gospel among peoples in many places.