“The Least of These” – The Eye-Opening Story of Missionary Graham Staines

An unbelievable display of love, “The Least of These” captures the missionary journey of the late Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, whose incessant dedication to the lepers of India attracted speculative media investigation, leading to his martyrdom in 1999.

Opening in theaters February 1, 2019, this movie marks the 20th anniversary of Staines’ horrific assassination for serving the outcast lepers of India – one of the most severe persecutions in the history of Christianity.

“The death of Dr. Graham Staines, 58, director of the Leprosy Mission in Baripada, Orissa, India, and translator of the New Testament into the Ho tribe language, brought about profound effects in India,” according to Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, author of Martyrdom: One Missionary’s Death Impacts the World’s Largest Democracy.

 

Story
Shot and directed in India, the film, starring Stephen Baldwin as Graham Staines, Shari Rigby as his wife Galdys and Bollywood star, Sharman Joshi, as Journalist Manav Banerjee, illustrates how the power of courageously unrelenting love and forgiveness overcomes fear and hate.

In India, where Hinduism and different world religions opposed Christianity and its government opposed “forced conversion,” Gaines obeyed the law, loved the people and specifically ministered to the lepers – “the least of these.”

However, in his hate for Christians, Prakash Belawadi, the biased editor of the New Orrisa newspaper, needed to find incriminating evidence to prove, even if it meant twisting the truth or misrepresenting it, that Staines practiced forced conversion. He manipulated and threatened young and inexperienced Journalist Manav Banerjee to achieve this goal. In his desperation to grow his career and provide a better life for his family, Banerjee initially obeyed his editor’s schemes, believing that he was serving his country, only to discover the innocence, truth and effectiveness of Staines’ ministry, making him rather uneasy. Struggles in Banerjee’s personal life and his own fears further impelled him, under mob threats, to make an inadvertently dangerous statement that would impact not only Staines’ life, but an entire country and the Christian world.

The grave nature of Staines’ assassination and the interconnected lives around this story echoed beyond India. However, the remarkably unbelievable forgiveness radiating from deeply hurt hearts also makes this movie worth seeing. Whether you work in the mission field, church, business, home, beyond international borders or just seeking to grow your faith, this movie will inspire and change you from the inside out.

 

Lessons

This movie challenges us to respect humanity, while objectively pursuing the truth without corruption or moral trespass and despite personal motives or outside pressure. Secondly, driven by career ambition and fear for his own life, Banerjee’s words and actions unintentionally spurred a tragic event that echoed throughout the world. Hence, this movie dramatically shows the importance of a pure heart, wisdom and discretion under pressure. Thirdly, the movie challenges us to courageously love the seemingly “unlovable” “least of these” and boldly speak for the weak while living above reproach (Philippians 2:15).

“Unfounded fear prevents people from doing good,” Staines told Banerjee. His story inspires viewers to not fear and shows how to boldly exercise the power of perfect love, which drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Jesus Christ encourages us that “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

Altogether, through Graham Staines’ story, we can learn how Christ, in His bountiful love, became a “leper” to save us from our own pride and shame, so we can love another “leper” like us. This is the legacy Staines left.

“The Least of These” will open in theaters February 1. It is not yet rated. For more information, visit theleastofthese.movie.
Lydia Hicks served as editorial assistant at Good News and is a graduate of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University.

 

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