Maoist violence is causing problems for missionaries and believers, like the ones shown here, in West Bengal, India.

Maoist rebels are terrorizing West Bengal, which is causing serious problems for Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries working in that state.

The Maoist rebel reign of terror in West Bengal is just one of the reasons that India's Parliament recently voted to ban the Maoist Communist Party of India, officially labeling it a terrorist organization. This gives law enforcement enhanced powers to arrest the rebels.

Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh described the Maoists as "the greatest threat to India's internal security."

The Maoist political party is loosely associated with the Communist Party of China. But the group is more well-known in India for using terror, rather than diplomacy, to achieve its means. According to BBC, at least 6,000 people have been killed in Maoist violence in India.

Indian officials struggle to understand what drives these violent rebels. They talk of being involved in a "people's war," but they routinely terrorize innocent civilians.

"The Maoists have no specific demands; they are just out to create trouble," West Bengal's chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told BBC.

As much as the government ban is welcomed by millions of Indians brutalized by the Maoists, it also brings concern of increased retaliatory violence.

In a recent article in Newsweek magazine, one Indian government official said the Maoist rebels are not the "committed revolutionaries" they describe themselves as.

"Many of them are only hoodlums who use villagers as hostages and human shields," said Ajay Kumar Singh, who oversees district development in Jharkhand, a state where the rebels hold a lot of power in rural areas. "They keep the ill-paid local cops terrorized by attacking them with overwhelming force and no warning."

There are an estimated 10,000 Maoist rebels in India, according to Newsweek.

The Maoists routinely extort money from the poorest of the poor and anyone associated with helping them. The Maoists are most numerous in a five-state area of East India where the average family lives on less than 45 cents a day. These rebels routinely attack government buildings, including police stations, and assassinate their enemies, who are often no more than common farmers or low-level government workers.

For businesses in this area, paying off the Maoists is as common as paying taxes. It's just a cost of doing business. Those who don't pay are brutally attacked by the groups. Maoists have burned down homes with women and children still inside; they set fire to equipment belonging to businesses who refuse to pay up. They cut off the arms of individuals who refuse to hand over money. They rape the women and torture men to death.

A GFA correspondent reported that the group's threats cause frequent strikes that shut down businesses and government services. The fear of bloodshed makes it difficult to carry out ministry activities, such as preaching, church construction and the drilling of Jesus Wells, in a normal manner.

He outlined the situation in one area of West Bengal, on which the Maoists have set their sights. The rebels have already demolished government institutions and offices there. The police appear to be helpless to do anything about the situation.

Gospel for Asia has seven Christian fellowships, a Bridge of Hope center and five missionaries in this tense area.

The Indian military has been called in to confront the Maoists.

"There is a chance there will be a lot of bloodshed," a GFA correspondent in that area wrote.

GFA leaders in this area share the following prayer requests:

  • Pray for the safety of the GFA missionaries and other workers in the affected areas.

  • Pray that ministry activities would go on unhindered during the battles.

  • Pray that no church buildings would be destroyed.

  • Pray for the Maoists to receive the love of Christ in their lives and to put down their guns and serve the Lord of Lords.