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Pastor’s arrest stirs tensions in Kashmir

By December 1, 2011

India (MNN) — A Kashmiri pastor
is free on bail but still faces serious legal troubles in India.

Words of Hope has been watching
the case because of longstanding ministry to the region. Words of Hope's Lee DeYoung says the case
stems from charges that a pastor in Jammu and Kashmir state "lured" Muslims to
Christianity by offering money.

DeYoung says Pastor Chander Mani
Khanna of All Saints Church in Srinagar was arrested by the Sharia court in the
region. "What had precipitated this
was a cell-phone video–which was posted on YouTube–of the baptism of seven
young people who were reportedly converts from Islam."   

Pastor Khanna, states a Compass Direct News (CDN) report,
was arrested on November 17 for creating "enmity" between religious communities
and hurting religious sentiments. Kashmir
lies at the heart of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and
China. Many Northern Kashmiris (Muslim)
are calling for separation from India (Hindu), so the charges against Pastor
Khanna aggravated already roiling sectarian tensions between Kashmir and Jammu
States.    

Not only are the charges false, says DeYoung, but also, "There
could be a real risk of vigilante violence against the pastor or any of the
other Christians." The allegations
of allurement appear to have turned Muslim clergy and separatist leaders
against the Christians.  

To make the charges stick, DeYoung says it appears that
torture was used. "There are
reports that the seven converts had been apprehended by Islamic authorities,
beaten, and forced to testify that they had been enticed to convert with money
or some other kind of illegal allurement."

Bishop Samantaroy said the allegation made by Kashmir Grand
Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, the state's highest official of Islamic law, that
Pastor Khanna had converted Muslims by offering money was "totally baseless and
untrue." 

DeYoung confirms, "He claims that he never approached
any of them directly. They attended his church, they heard him preach in his
church; and simply by hearing the sermons delivered in his church, they decided to
become believers. He did baptize them
but claims that he did nothing to entice them."

Aside from isolated incidents of
violence, Christians and Muslims had had good relations in Kashmir up until
eight years ago. A news account told of
Christian missionaries who were converting Muslim youth. That was followed by
another account that claimed thousands of Muslim youths were converting to
Christianity. Relations continued to
sour until a news report showed self-proclaimed pastor Terry Jones burning the
Quran. Riots exploded throughout the
region, leading to assaults and the destruction of property.

DeYoung says as a result, "There is a strong climate of
fear among the Christian minority in Kashmir, particularly those whose names
reportedly are on a list of others who may have been converts over the last
months or years. A number of them are keeping a very low profile."

For years, Words of Hope has been
broadcasting the hope of Christ to northern India in Kashmiri. Despite
the spiritual climate, that will continue. Pray that believers in the region
won't be intimidated into silence. "There really is a call to prayer that
the Indian laws will be asserted, and that the rights of the pastor and others
who have been arrested will be protected, and that ultimately, there could be a
restoration."

 

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