In an ancient city with roots dating to the Iron Age, it is the youth who are taking charge of the future—one they hope will include Jesus Christ.
Founded in 1591, Hyderabad, India, blends tradition and technology like few other places. Just outside of town, you can visit a 13th Century fort built by Hindu Kakatiya kings that later served as a fortress for powerful Muslim sultanates.
And across the city? India’s headquarters for Microsoft and Google. Hyderabad’s nicknames include both the City of Pearls and Cyberabad.
Due to the IT influence, a sense of globalization has brought an increased tolerance among the urban population. It is common to see people from different religions embracing the concepts of Christianity, but refraining from actually accepting Christ as their Savior.
Cricket and the cinema, meanwhile, are two popular “gods” among Hyderabad’s youth. Sports and movie stars are often elevated to the status of idols.
It’s an environment that is ripe for this week’s Hyderabad Festival with Franklin Graham. For four nights beginning Thursday, Nov. 10, Franklin Graham will bring a message of hope to an area where less than 3 percent of the population is Christian.
“I first went to India in the early 1970s with Dr. Bob Pierce,” says Graham. “And this will be my third preaching opportunity there. As I stand and proclaim Jesus as the One True God in a land with thousands of supposed gods and goddesses, I know that God has promised that Heaven will be populated by men and women purchased by Christ’s precious blood from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Revelation 5:9, NIV).”
Andhra Prasesh was founded as the first Muslim state of India almost 500 years ago. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of Hyderabad’s population is Muslim, while Christians make up around 2 to 3 percent.
The first Protestant mission in the area was established in 1805, while the first complete New Testament in Telugu was printed in 1811. William Taylor, a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, triggered a great revival in Hyderabad during the years 1872–1874.
Following the Indian Independence in 1947, all properties that belonged to missions and churches in the British cantonments were bequeathed to Telugu Christians. Several major denominations were also formed during this period.
Today, there are about 2,500 churches in the three sections of greater Hyderabad. These include mainline denominations, Pentecostals and independent churches. Most of the churches are in Secunderabad or Hyderabad.
“The HITEC area of the city is home to the computer industry,” explains Assistant Festival Director Derek Forbes. “A lot of young people live there, but there are not as many churches, so one of our targets for the Festival is to reach people living in HITEC. They need the Gospel too.”
According to Forbes, young people in Hyderabad face the same challenges and problems that American youth face, but it is harder for the older generation here to understand their needs. “Reaching out to youth has become a great part of this Festival,” he explains. “They need good solid teaching, and they need the love of God like we do.”
Chad Hammond, the director for the Hyderabad Festival, agrees: “The youth are eager to see a change happen in their country and they have been a model of unity. Pray that the youth would see their need for Christ and that the older generation would see the need for changing times.”
“This next generation of youth in Hyderabad is very connected to the entire world,” says Forbes. “Many of them work for international companies. It’s an interesting dynamic as we’re trying to reach this generation that’s kind of trying to figure where they belong in life. At the same time, they are trying to blend into their very traditional Indian culture.”
BGEA brings its own history and tradition to India this week. Billy Graham preached in Madras (Chennai) in 1956; in Nagaland in 1972; and at Hyderabad, Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta in 1977.
Following a cyclone in 1977 and tsunami in 2005, BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse helped build villages and provided fishing boats.
The My Hope World Evangelism through Television Project launched in India in 2005 and continued into 2006. The combined My Hope India broadcasts were shown in 14 languages and transmitted to all 28 states of India, resulting in more than 2.7 million decisions for Christ.
And in 2010, Franklin Graham shared the Gospel at the Chennai Hope Festival in Tamil Nadu.
“One of the things that has been a blessing for us is to walk in the shadow of Billy Graham,” says Hammond. “I recently talked to one of the leaders in the city. He told me he has studied Billy Graham’s life and been to one of the Amsterdam conferences. He went on to explain how Billy Graham’s ministry changed his life and the impression made on him by the commitment we have.”
Hammond says that pastors in Hyderabad are familiar with Franklin Graham’s work in India. “He has—through Samaritan’s Purse—done a lot of humanitarian work here. This is a country that appreciates that. Pastors and churches are aware of that legacy.
“I feel good about what is going to happen this week,” Hammond adds.
Join us in praying that many in the City of Pearls will find the Pearl of Great Wisdom.
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