Tuesday, January 17, 2012

142. India: Tensions soaring as Christians charged in Kashmir

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 142 | Wed 18 Jan 2012


By Elizabeth Kendal

TRUTH: India-administrated Kashmir has a population of 12.5 million (2011 census). Christianity is growing across Kashmir. In 1990 there were some 12,000 Christians; by 2000 that number had risen to around 20,000; Operation World 2010 Edition reports 'more than double that'. TRUTH: Islam is totalitarian and apostasy (leaving Islam) is forbidden because the freedom of the apostate is fitna -- something that could shake the faith of other Muslims. Freedom is something the apostaphobic dictators of Islam dare not risk.

On 19 November 2011 the pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar, Rev Chander Mani Khanna, was arrested on charges of creating 'enmity' between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments. (The Christian community in Srinagar is only about 400.) Remanded in judicial custody for 15 days, Pastor Khanna was released on bail on 1 December. He has since fled the Kashmir Valley. On 10 December the Islamic Court laid charges against Father 'Jim' Borst (80), a Dutch Catholic missionary who has been working in Kashmir for almost 50 years, primarily in education. At a hearing on Wednesday 11 January 2012 the Supreme Sharia Court, led by the Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Bashid-ud-din Ahmad, claimed it had 'proved beyond doubt' that Pastor Khanna and Fr Borst had been involved in religious conversions using 'baits and inducements'. Sentencing is due any day now.

Grand Mufti Bashid-ud-din Ahmad is the one who initially accused Khanna. After obtaining video footage showing seven youths being baptised in Pastor Khanna's church, the Grand Mufti accused Khanna of 'luring' Muslims to Christianity with the offer of money. (See here for baptism footage.) Though arrested and beaten by Indian police, the seven youths continue to insist they were never offered any material incentive. Despite this, some local newspapers have quoted anonymous police sources saying the converts were given money. Islamic outrage is being stoked with lies and disinformation. Protests have erupted in Kashmir over the issue. Bishop PK Samantaroy, head of the Amritsar Diocese, fears the issue has put at risk the lives of all local Christians across Kashmir.

Even though Kashmir's self-appointed Sharia Court has no jurisdiction, Pastor Khanna consented to appear before it on 17 Nov 2011, hoping his explanation would help pacify the situation. Standing alone, surrounded by dozens of hostile and abusive Muslims, it was an intimidating experience. Pastor Khanna told the court that the seven youths were baptised of their own initiative with absolutely no inducements. Bishop Samantaroy confirmed to the Evangelical Fellowship of India that he had seen this particular group of young men attending All Saints Church for over a year. 'These converts had approached the pastor for baptism by their own freewill,' he said. 'In such cases, the Church cannot deny baptism.'

Awaiting word of his sentence, Pastor Khanna fears for his life. He said he was shocked the government tolerates such activities. Yet the TRUTH of the matter is this: when it comes to persecution of Christians in India, impunity is the order of the day. This impunity -- for which the Federal government must ultimately be held accountable -- is the reason violence and injustice against Christians is soaring to unprecedented levels, making a mockery of India's claim to religious freedom.

The Deputy Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Nasir-ul-Islam, claims the activities of the men 'have hurt the sentiments of [the] entire Muslim community'. But have they? In TRUTH, the activities of these men -- running schools, caring for the poor and sharing the Gospel -- have simply opened the door to the alternative that threatens the totalitarian hegemony of India's religious dictators, Muslim or Hindu. In TRUTH, this is all about freedom. Muslims should be appalled that they are being lied to and manipulated just so that religious dictators can keep them in bondage.

UPDATE: On 19 January 2012, Srinagar's self-appointed Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat -- a court with absolutely no legal jurisdiction -- issued a decree mandating the expulsion of Punjabi Protestant pastor Reverend M C Khanna of All Saints Church Srinagar, along with his wife, Kanta, and his associate Gayoor Masih; as well as Dutch Catholic missionary Father Jaap (Jim) Borst. The four were directed to leave the Kashmir Valley forthwith for their involvement in "unethical" conversions. A case against a fifth Christian, Parvez Sameul Koul, principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, is under investigation. (For full report see Eliminating fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 22 Jan 2012.)


* surround, protect and deliver Kashmir's Christians from any Islamic reactionary violence and provide all their needs; may Kashmir's light be preserved to shine ever brighter for the glory of God as Christ builds his Church (Matthew 5:14-16).

* use this case to open the eyes of Kashmiri Muslims to TRUTH:
- may they see they are being lied to by their leaders (religious and civic);
- may they see that the purpose of these lies is to perpetuate their bondage;
- may they see that their freedom is the real issue;
- may they see that freedom is found only through truth and in Christ. (John 8:31-37)

'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' (Matthew 5:44 ESV)


The Supreme Sharia Court in India-administrated Kashmir is self-appointed and lacks official jurisdiction. Nevertheless on 11 January 2012 it claimed to have 'proved [guilt] beyond doubt' and is poised to sentence Anglican pastor Rev Chander Mani Khanna and Dutch Catholic missionary Fr 'Jim' Borst for gaining converts using 'baits and inducements'. Video footage had emerged from All Saints Church, Srinagar, showing Pastor Khanna baptising seven young men who had attended the church for over a year. Kashmir's Grand Mufti then accused Khanna of hurting Muslim sentiments by 'luring' Muslims into Christianity through the offer of money. These converts, though beaten by Indian police, still insist no inducements were ever offered. As tensions soar the diocesan bishop fears the case is putting at risk the lives of all local Christians across Kashmir.

Baptism footage (singing: 'I have decided to follow Jesus' - lyrics).

News report: J&K: Row over forced conversions in Valley