On most days, a young woman walking along the beach in Puducherry, India wouldn’t draw attention. People often strolled along the ocean in this area. But this 21-year-old wasn’t just enjoying the view. She was in the final stages of a deadly game – and the only step left was to commit suicide.
Before she could complete the task and end her own life, police arrived on the scene. Tipped off by one of the woman’s friends, they discovered cuts on her arm and a note in her hand that read: “ten cuts in three days.” Both were recognized as signs that she was playing the Blue Whale game.
The Blue Whale game, increasingly played around the world, is especially popular in India. In this case, police were able to rescue the young lady, reunite her with her parents and get her counseling. However, not everyone who plays this online game has been so fortunate. Dozens of young people have been admitted to hospitals or been found dead after participating in the Blue Whale.
A recent report in India Today states that according to Google Trends, India has seen the highest number of searches related to the Blue Whale. Of the 50 cities in the world with the highest number of Blue Whale related searches, the top 32 positions are held by Indian cities.
What is this game and why are young people downloading it? Originally devised in Russia, the Blue Whale game involves a series of instructions that players are expected to follow. One “command” is issued each day for 50 days. In what experts call “grooming” (a form of abusive manipulation), the “instructor” slowly but intentionally enslaves the players. The end of the game comes when the instructor convinces the players to kill themselves.
A former psychology student who was expelled from his university claims that he invented the game. He says his purpose was to “cleanse” society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value. While his actions are evil, he seems to have picked up on a crucial point: young people today are struggling with their self-worth. They are desperately searching for affirmation. They want to know they matter. When they hear the opposite, they tend to believe the lies and are plunged into depression.
They end up numbing their pain through substance abuse, multiple relationships, pornography and excessive gaming.
Today’s youth are facing challenges and pressures that are far different from previous generations. From cyber bullying through apps like SnapChat to pornography to the Sarahah app (which lets people anonymously judge your actions), young people are facing a technology-driven spiritual crisis. Many apps and games, presented as harmless distractions, are becoming traps that rob young people of their time, peace, relationships and, in some cases, their lives. They simply can’t see a way out.
So far, proposed solutions to this growing problem have been ineffective. For the most part, they have provided only temporary band-aids and quick fixes. For instance, in Brazil, a designer and a publicity agent created a movement called Baleia Rosa (Pink Whale). In an attempt to counteract the Blue Whale game, Baleia Rosa focuses on positive tasks that value life and combat depression. While this is noteworthy, it doesn’t reach the heart of the problem. This is a spiritual crisis and requires a spiritual answer.
God’s Word is that answer.
Unfortunately, most young people today do not consider the Bible to be relevant. They have access to it, but refuse to read it.
That’s why Biblica’s Reach4Life (R4L) program is so exciting. Reach4Life takes teens on a journey through the New Testament, sharing the gospel message, introducing them to Christ, and teaching them God’s wisdom to help them deal with modern challenges. Millions of youth have been rescued from drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and STDs (including HIV/AIDS) through Reach4Life. Young people who were once in the grip of addiction and abuse are now leading dynamic, impactful lives.
Biblica’s Reach4Life campaign is changing the way young people view and engage with the Bible, their world and themselves. Through the compelling reading material and through the R4L camps, young people come to understand the truth about themselves as useful, productive, worthy and loved individuals.
Reach4Life was introduced in North East India for the first time in 2017. Since then, 11,000 youth have experienced the program. After 42 sessions in Nagaland, a teen told the organisers: “I was previously addicted to pornography. It all started as a random video sent by a friend through WhatsApp that automatically downloaded. I began to watch the porno videos for fun but soon I was hooked to it. During the Reach4Life classes, I began to realize that what I was doing was wrong in God’s eyes. I stopped. I deleted all those videos.”
The moral landscape is changing through consistent Bible engagement.
According to Rev. Niu Vihienuo, Pastor at the Union Baptist Church, it isn’t just young people in the world who need the wisdom and direction of God’s Word. The teens in the Church need it too. “I have decided to encourage our youth to take up the R4L campaign,” Rev. Niu Vihienuo says. “Young people need to hear God’s Word. Thank you, Biblica for coming alongside us in order to provide resources to help us truly get back to Scripture and engage with God’s Word.”
More than 1 million teens all around the world have completed Reach4Life. It is proving to be so effective that churches, schools, communities, and even governments are requesting the program.
Those who have taken the step to introduce Reach4Life to their students are already seeing the benefits.
Mrs. Sedeleu Peseyie, Principal of Greenwood School, is one such person. “We are excited at the outcome and the change in our students. Our objective is to equip our children for the challenges of tomorrow. We get to hear stories of how our children have been impacted by the program. I’m reminded of one story in particular about how a student that had a problem with smoking could break free from the habit as we did R4L.”
Self-destruction and suicide are not from God. The Bible tells us that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full. He wants to give young people life. It should be our non-negotiable mandate to put the Bible into the hands of our youth and equip them with God’s wisdom to overcome the challenges facing them today.
God’s Word is indeed the key to seeing true transformation. With Him, all things are possible.