MUMBAI, India — The smoke from days of terrorism has barely cleared. Nearly 200 people in India's largest city are dead. Hundreds more lie wounded.
Yet world attention already is shifting from Mumbai itself to international fallout from the attacks: whether the bloody assault on Mumbai will spark a retaliation from India against its bitter rival Pakistan, from which the terrorists reportedly came. Both powers possess nuclear arms and have come close to using them against each other in the past. And what would new India-Pakistan tensions mean for the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and lawless northwest Pakistan?
While military and political analysts monitor those possibilities, Mumbai's people need prayer, said an American Christian worker based there.
"Our city has been a scene of tragedy and terror over the past few days, but it's not over," the worker said. "The effects will be deeply felt for months and years to come by the families of those who have lost loved ones — and for those who have felt their sense of security in this city slip away."
TV news reports may be showing Mumbai's people getting back to normal in the city of more than 18 million or defiantly protesting the attacks and the politicians they believe failed to prevent them. But the trauma goes deep.
"The fact of the terrorist attacks has numbed the city's population," the worker noted. "People were indiscriminately murdered for reasons as yet only speculated about. Please pray for God to work in this horrible human tragedy to draw people of all religions to the end of themselves, of their own plans and dreams, and desire to know the real truth about the reason for their tenuous existence."
How does the worker feel personally?
"We have personally been shut out from the city because of security issues (related to the attacks) and are feeling probably as numb as any of the citizens here," he said.
"This has been a very sad week. Sad for the city's loss of life and sense of security. But worse, sad for the kingdom's loss. For among the dead are Muslim terrorists, Hindus, a rabbi's family, hotel employees, socialites, businessmen from many countries and more. Perhaps there was a believer among them. Apart from that possibility, they all — terrorists and victims alike — right now face the same eternity before one God. We lift up our hearts and cry out to Him for this city's redemption.
"How do we feel? We feel an urgency that the gospel be shared among all of the lost."
The worker, who ministers among multiple people groups in the city, also has an urgent concern about potential backlash against minorities — particularly against Muslims.
"Please pray for ongoing communal harmony," he urged. "Pray that those who would incite hatred and repercussions here, not for ideology as they purport but for personal gain, will not succeed. The city's populace is vulnerable."
The Mumbai attacks come in the wake of many violent incidents in India over the past year, including ongoing terrorism in Kashmir, bombings in multiple cities and extremist Hindu attacks on Christians in Orissa and other states. Even as India increases its international profile, increasing ethnic and religious tensions have led some Indian commentators to wonder if the nation will survive as a secular democracy.
"(A)ll of these are signs of a simmering India," said Bobby Gupta, president of the Christian ministry organization HCI Global Partners, in a call to prayer following the Mumbai attacks. "This is not why our (nation) was formed. It was intended to facilitate independence … with human rights to all people providing freedom (and) justice for all mankind. But this is fast crumbling in the midst of a growing economy and modernization of the nation. The hope to become an economic influence could crumble and the opportunity for the church to have a global impact could be lost."
He called on Christians to pray for peace in India, for the nation's leaders, for courage among Indian believers and for a "value transformation" among young people so the next generation will live in peace and harmony.
India, he said, could become "an incredible global influence" to carry the gospel throughout the world.
"Only prayer can make this change," he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.)