05/10/2013, 00.00
INDIA

Christian missionaries must leave Kashmir or suffer the consequences, says Islamic extremist

by Nirmala Carvalho
A militant from an armed group, the United Jihad Council, accuses priests of converting the poor in exchange for money. The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) slams the rise of religious intolerance against Christians. Two South Koreans were beaten and arrested for handing out Bibles in the street.

Srinagar (AsiaNews) - "All Christian missionaries must immediately leave the Kashmir Valley. If they do not, they will suffer the consequences," warned Sadagat Hussain Syed, spokesman for the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation for Jammu and Kashmir jihadist groups. The words of the Islamic fundamentalist, "show the gravity of the situation in which Christians live in the only Indian state with a Muslim majority," said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), as he spoke to AsiaNews.

Recently, Sadagat issued a press release in which he accused Christian missionaries who live in Kashmir of "exploiting the poor and needy, offering them economic aid to convert them to Christianity."

According to the Islamic extremist, this attitude is "highly regrettable" because "Islam is a religion of peace and harmony, which protects minorities. However," he warned, "anti-Islamic activities cannot be tolerated."

Created in 1994, the United Jihad Council and its armed militants have been fighting for the independence of Jammu and Kashmir from India.

According to the GCIC president, such statements lead to discrimination against the Christian minority. One of the latest examples of religious intolerance occurred on Monday in Lasjan, a village near Srinagar (the state capital).

Two South Koreans were distributing Bibles and other Christian materials to passers-by, who could freely take them or not. When a mob gathered and beat up the two Christians, police arrived to arrest the two who are now in a safe place receiving medical care.

For Sajan George, this "is a clear case of discrimination against the Christian faith and shows the double standards with which our minority is treated."

In India, he noted, "it is very common to encounter foreigners wearing saffron-coloured clothes," which symbolises Hinduism, "distributing the Bhagavad Gita," the Hindu Sacred Book," at train stations. They enjoy full religious freedom, as enshrined in our Constitution, and no policeman will arrest them, ever."

By contrast, in Jammu and Kashmir, Islamic militants will often go after foreign Christians and missionaries. In January for example, a group of foreign tourists was almost lynched after the publication of a few posts on Facebook.

A similar case occurred in 2011, when Rev Chander Mani Khanna, a pastor with the All Saints Anglican Church, was arrested for baptising seven Muslims and then charged by an Islamic court (which has no legal authority in the state, nor elsewhere in India) for proselytising and forced conversions.

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