Christian leaders for the release of Kashmiri pastor arrested for forced conversions
by Nirmala Carvalho
Rev. Channa Mani Khanna is in prison for having baptized seven Muslims. Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC): "We must stop the Talibanisation of the only Indian state with a Muslim majority." Anglican Bishop P.K. Samantha Roy, of the Diocese of Amritsar, "he officiated valid baptisms, he has not done anything illegal."
Srinagal (AsiaNews) - "The Rev. CM Khanna and seven Muslim converts to Christianity were exercising their constitutional rights to religious freedom and freedom of choice, they have done nothing illegal. " So says Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), commenting on the arrest of Channa Mani Khanna, Anglican pastor of All Saints Church in Kashmir, accused by the Grand Mufti of the region of having forced the conversion of young Muslims in exchange for money. For the Anglican bishop P.K. Samantha Roy, of the Diocese of Amritsar, "the way the police have arrested the pastor is humiliating. Rev. Khanna has never acted in secret. We ask the government of Kashmir for justice. The Anglican Church will seek a legal redress for our innocent pastor. "
A few days before his arrest, on 19 November, the Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-Din had called the Rev. Khanna before a sharia court, to answer charges of forced conversion. On 17 November, the Grand Mufti had then written a letter to the pastor, in which he stated: "Having failed in what I had asked, we will be forced to take action under Shari'a." In addition to Rev. Khanna, the police also arrested the seven Muslim that he baptized, beating them to obtain a confession against the pastor.
Msgr. Roy said he had discussed what happened in the Islamic court with the pastor: "The interrogation went on for four hours. When we spoke, the Reverend was serene and calm, not afraid because he was sure of his innocence and that he had not committed any violation of canon law or civil law. The baptisms he officiated are valid. "
"The request to appear before a Shariah court - said Sajan George - is alarming. We must stop the Talibanisation of the only Indian state with a Muslim majority. India is a secular country with a secular constitution, which states without exception, and demands respect for the principles of equality among citizens of the republic. "
The state of Kashmir has no anti-conversion laws: the police arrested the pastor according to art. 153A (people who promote disharmony, enmity or hatred based on religion, race, residence, language or caste) and 295A (people who offend the religious feelings of any class, with deliberate and malicious acts).