India (MNN) — There's a bright spot amongst all the
news coming out of India's Jammu and Kashmir states.
According to Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope, Rev. Chander Mani Khanna–accused of bribing
Muslim young people to convert to Christianity–is free, and the case against
him is dismissed for lack of evidence.
The bad news is: the stress silenced the pastor. "He retired
officially from the only open church in Kashmir, (that is the All Saint's
Church in Srinagar), in mid-January. The church is still there, but at this
point, it seems as if Christian activity has been driven completely underground
and has been severely curtailed."
DeYoung confirms the Compass Direct News report saying
because no charges were filed against him, the state's High Court on Feb. 11 halted
proceedings in the police complaint of "promotion of religious enmity by
conversions" against Khanna.
Khanna can now travel because the order binding him to the
state was lifted, as well. The court asked
the government to file its response by March 14, and then it will set the date
for the next hearing.
What's odd is that while Kashmir's sharia (Islamic law)
court has no legal authority in India, the
committee charged and convicted three church leaders of "luring the valley
Muslims to Christianity." As part
of their sentence, the trio was ordered to leave the state, and the state
government was told to take over the management of all Christian schools in the
DeYoung says, "Local Christians say that the Sharia
court is continuing to pursue Christians. Newspaper announcements are posted, naming suspected or known Christians
and urging people to turn them in."
As a result, life has been extremely difficult for Kashmir's
Christians since the verdict. First, there's the intimidation. "They're
also seeking to prevent conversions and to re-convert Christians," says DeYoung. "Committee
members of this Islamic Sharia court are visiting Christian homes and allegedly
pressuring them and their families to return to Islam."
Then, there are the threats, which have to be taken seriously. DeYoung says they're taking steps to keep the
staff safe. "Words of Hope's radio broadcasts in the Kashmiri language,
which had been on the air for a number of years, are going to be suspended at
the end of March–in part, because the people who have been recording the
programs, the production effort has been disrupted by this persecution."
The fifteen-minute program, "Ray of Hope," airs four days a week and includes music, a
health segment, and a Bible-based message. Personal contacts have been made
with listeners. The few seekers who respond to the program need support and
encouragement to stand for their faith in their own community.
The decision to pull back a little is not limited to Words
of Hope. "The shortwave
transmissions of FEBA radio are going to cease to the Indian subcontinent at
the end of March. We are continuing to pursue other opportunities, and we hope
that it will be possible to restart this ministry sometime in the future."
As noted in an earlier interview with another Words of Hope
staffer, for all practical purposes "active ministry has ceased for the
moment, as far as we know, and the Christians who were involved in that have
had to flee for their lives."
There was openness to the Gospel, so keep praying for
opportunity. DeYoung says the story
isn't over yet. "[We] seek the prayers of God's people for an easing of
this illegal persecution and for the work of the Gospel to continue–and