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As Christmas nears, hostility increases in India

By December 19, 2011

India
(MNN) — A new report says Christians in
Jammu and Kashmir, India, are afraid because of an increasing threat against
them as Christmas nears.

According to
a report from Compass Direct News, a fact-finding team found that Muslim
leaders there are rallying against Christians and evangelism.

Gospel for Asia Founder
& President KP Yohannan says that's not a surprise. "Jammu
Kashmir is a place with large numbers of Muslim community. Any attempt to evangelize
really becomes a problem. The opposition to Christian
work and Christians has a long history in Jammu Kashmir."

A Sharia court has hinted
about what it plans to do to halt proselytizing and "forced conversions" in the
region. While Sharia courts don't have
legal authority over non-Muslims, they can demand a halt to activities that
include baptism, church meetings, and activities in Christian schools.

Physical
violence is not out of the question, which has increased the fear among the
Christian minority. It is likely to materialize
as a safety threat as Christmas nears. Yohannan says, "Just as in the
state of Orissa, during Christmas season every year we have difficulties. In
these kinds of situations, we advise our workers to be careful, sober-minded,
and not to antagonize."

The threat stems from last
month's arrest of an area pastor who was charged with "hurting religious
sentiments of Muslims." The Muslim
leaders' reaction came after they got wind of a baptism ceremony following conversions from Islam into Christianity. Compass explained that Muslim leaders in the
Kashmir Valley, which is 97 percent Muslim, began to rally against Christians
after a video recording of Muslim youth being baptized at the All Saints Church
was posted on YouTube in late October.

Says
Yohannan, "Some people are not very wise about the information
that they put out, and that really created a bigger problem."

The pastor is
currently free on bail but still facing court action. Yohannan goes on to say
that being smart about what they're doing goes a long way to keeping doors open
for outreach. "We did have our own share of persecution and
difficulties in Jammu Kashmir. We still do have difficulties. Sometimes, some Christian workers unnecessarily
put out informational reports and put stuff on Web sites, YouTube, and all
that."

Yohannan asks for prayer support for their team. First, "consistent
prayer–spiritual warfare–has to be done for God to move in the Muslim communities.
Secondly, pray that the people of God will have the ability to have the
commitment and the courage to face difficulties."

Although the threat against believers is real throughout the
volatile Kashmir Valley, it won't stop their teams. "I'm absolutely convinced that if you preach
the Gospel, people will come to know the Lord, no matter what," says Yohannan.

In the meantime, "We need to do whatever we can in
terms of providing resources and help, literature, radio broadcasts, whatever,
as a means to share the love of Christ with people."

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