Friday, July 27, 2012

Agni Raksha

"I, the Lord, will help them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them."
Isaiah 41:17  NKJV

There are few things that touch our hearts more than a bride on her wedding day. The contagious love and joy of the bride and groom splash all over us and lift our hearts to heaven to whisper a prayer that they might have a long and blessed marriage, all the days of their lives. We want the best for them. We pray they will love each other through the joys and difficulties that surely lie ahead. All of us get caught up in the dream of life-long faithfulness and devoted love that is surely within reach of every couple on their wedding day.

Not always, of course. Sometimes, too often, for sure,
the marriage ends in divorce and the couple's dreams are shattered. It is always a heartache when this happens. But, can it really be that evil has its way so boldly in this world that a groom, often with the help of his family, will burn his bride alive if she fails to please him? That is exactly what is happening in India to young women who displease their husbands, often by failing to pay a high enough dowry.

I could not believe my ears when I first heard this described by Ravi Zacharias, a world renowned Christian Apologist and speaker, whose home of origin is India. He knows well where of he speaks. When I listened to him describe the practice of "Bride Burning" in India, I was brought back once again to the book series we reviewed this past year on "Half the Sky". It seems that God has stolen my heart for women who are suffering in so many ways that are unimaginable to us in America. He is calling me - you - us - again and again, to care as He cares, love as He loves, give as He gives. This is the Compassionate Christ moving in the world through His people...

As I resume writing this blog, I am convinced that God wants to use it for His purposes, and one of those is to draw attention to those who are suffering unimaginable wounds, even to the point of savagely horrific deaths, for little or no reason at all. I have come to believe it is the cry of His heart that is moving my own. Because He cares, so must we.

For those reasons, I have decided to highlight various ministries that are on the front lines in the battle to rescue these innocent victims of cruelty and bring them to the One who loves them best - Our Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you will pray about what you can do to support these ministries in prayer and action. Even if we can't go to them, we can pray for them and we can send some of our surplus to support their need. I have copied below an excerpt from Wellspring International, a division of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. If you have an interest in contacting them about their many, many programs, here is the link.


Bangalore, India

The Need
Current reports document that 25,000 women are victims of bride burning in India each year. Since many cases are left unreported, this is considered to be a significant underestimate of the total number of victims to this horrific crime.  
Bride burning is related to the dowry system. While the tradition of demanding a dowry has been illegal since 1961, it is still practiced, particularly in village areas. In cases where the agreed upon dowry has not been paid after the marriage, or if the groom’s family demands more, a threat may be made to burn the bride if demands are not met. If the bride’s family does not comply, the groom’s family may choose to follow through and set the new bride on fire.
In the city of Bangalore, there is only one government hospital and five beds available to burn victims.

The Opportunity

Agni Raksha was founded in 1999 by Dr. Prema Dhanraj. Dr. Dhanraj was herself a burn victim when, as a child, she was severely burned by a kitchen fire in her home. Prema eventually completed her medical studies and accepted a position to work at the Christian Medical College and Hospital, eventually becoming the Head of the Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery department. She has been the recipient of many international awards and provided training to open the first burn treatment facility in Ethiopia, the country with the highest number of burn victims in the world. In 1999, Dr. Dhanraj launched the foundation Agni Raksha, which literally means “protection from fire,” to provide treatment to local burn victims as well as an opportunity for skills training and income generating activities.
The key focus of Agni Raksha is the overall development of the individual patient. The primary objective is to provide trauma treatment, ongoing medical care through reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy, psychosocial rehabilitation, and job training for a holistic approach to healing and recovery. Agni Raksha strives to give each individual hope in their future through rehabilitation programs that address the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs, as well as education, vocational training, and funding for small businesses. These vital components of rehabilitation address the practical life needs and equip a woman to be financially independent to support herself and her children for a promising future.

The Challenge

Since 2008, Wellspring International has provided funds to purchase critical needs such as a Suzuki ambulance, an air conditioning unit, and two generators for their small medical facility that they have named Safe Haven Clinic. Fifteen hospital beds were added to the clinic and a nurse’s quarters added to allow for 24 hour care. Ten patients received two reconstructive surgeries each for a total of twenty surgeries, and the micro finance loan center was launched. Twenty women began skills training classes in tailoring and eight women were approved for a loan and started an independent business. All micro credit beneficiaries are on a payment program that serves to finance the revolving credit fund. Each woman is mentored by an Agni Raksha’s Self Help Group to provide accountability and support.
In the upcoming year, Wellspring International aims to provide a minimum of $30,000 USD to Agni Raksha to invest in the skills training program, medical supplies and reconstructive surgeries, vehicle maintenance, and physical therapy personnel.
There is a significant need for funding toward a fully equipped onsite surgical center to adequately treat patients. Presently, they must use the surgical facilities of two area hospitals, but the relationship has many limitations. Gaining permission, scheduling and staffing are a constant challenge. An operational surgical facility will support a greater number of surgeries to include victims currently on a wait list.


  1. There's a Christian based organization called Rahab's Rope that is based in Bangalore, India. They are a place of refuge for women sold into sex-trafficking. They teach them new skills in order to break those chains of bondage. How ironic that the organization you highlight is in the same area. I continue to have a burden for the women I read about in Half the Sky. Such a powerful, eye-opening book. I'm glad you are writing again. :)

  2. I am so happy to be finding more and more groups that are growing up to minister to the many innocent victims of the brutalization of human beings - that includes sex trafficking, child soldiers, and so many other incredibly cruel and inhumane cultural practices. I am awakening to the reality that even I can contribute something to help the victims. I am thinking I'm also going to introduce a prayer diary highlighting different needs daily. Prayer is essential. And then do what we can do wherever we are planted. But, we must DO something...

  3. I actually have heard of this practice in India . I've watched a movie which showed this practice in a newly married couple . As outrageous as it may seem to us , this is expected in their culture even by the bride's family . Very sad .

    1. As we celebrate with joy and wonder the magnificent glory of the Resurrection, I am reminded, as a woman, how much Jesus loved women when He walked this earth. He elevated the status of women in His culture and gave them a dignity that was unknown at that time and continues to be absent in many parts of the world today, where Jesus Christ is not yet known. Jesus changes us, gives us Hope, and transforms every inch of who we are. He promises us again and again "Behold - I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!!" That is a promise for women who are victimized and abused both here, in India, and anywhere else He is striving to invade our world. Come quickly, Lord, Jesus. We need You, Oh, how much we need you...


How are you doing on your journey with the Lord? Started yet? Still searching. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to seek after Him with all your heart. Without a doubt, you will find Him. He is searching for YOU!