11/02/2011, 00.00
INDIA
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Kashmir, false accusations of forced conversion against a Protestant pastor

by Nirmala Carvalho
C. M. Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar accused of converting Muslim youth. The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians denounces the continuing cases of pressure and violence against the Christian minority in Kashmir.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The small Christian community of Kashmir is in danger and victim of harassment and violence by the Muslim majority, Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), tells AsiaNews following the complaint of forced conversions suffered on Oct. 29 by CM Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church.

According to the Grand Mufti Mufti Bashir-ud-din, the pastor would have encouraged some young Muslims to embrace Christianity, asking them to take a dip in a pool inside the church, near the cricket stadium in Srinagar. The leader claims to have video evidence of his charges. Khanna now must report to the Shariah court on 15 November.

Sajan George emphasizes that the evidence presented by the Islamists is fabricated and the accusations baseless, used to harass and intimidate the Christian minority. Often a rumour or an unfounded suspicion of conversions from Islam to Christianity is enough to arouse the ire of the fundamentalists. "In May 2003 - says the activist - a Catholic nun was killed by a grenade thrown by some extremists near the main entrance of the school of the convent of St Luke. The assault was a result of threats made against Christians by militant groups after hearing reports of conversions to Christianity. In March 2008, Peerzada Shakeel, a convert from Islam to Christianity was arrested along with his wife Arifa on false charges of forced conversions. In February 2011, Islamic militants set fire to the convent school of St. Luke, in Srinagar, Kashmir. Again the attack was triggered by false accusations of alleged conversions. "

For his part, Khanna has denied the charges against him and his church: "We are a local church, which does not get outside financing. We depend on the offers of local people who come here in search of spiritual comfort . So we tell them that they must support the church financially. " The pastor said that the Mufti had recently lobbied to admit some students into the Tyndale Biscoe school, but had been invited to submit a request to the principal. Khanna says that Bashir-ud-din was annoyed by the response.
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