Kashmir life in danger of a pastor falsely accused of forced conversions
by Nirmala Carvalho
The Grand Mufti has called the Rev. Khanna of the Church of North India to a Sharia court to explain the alleged forced conversions of young Muslims. The protests of Bishop Samantaroy and the President of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Sajan K George, an "inappropriate and unconstitutional demand, a humiliation to the Constitution of our country."
Srinagar (AsiaNews) - Police in Srinagar have received a complaint against Rev. Chander Khanna Head of the Church of All Saints, claiming that Christian missionaries in Kashmir encourage conversions. Rev. Khanna was summoned to a Sharia court of Srinagar, bythe Grand Mufti of Kashmir valley, Basheeruddin, to explain the alleged conversion of young local Muslims. In a letter to the pastor, the grand mufti has warned him of being held personally responsible for the consequences if he failed to explain his activities in the court. “Large-scale law and order problems are feared across the state if the deplorable practice of using motivation and inducements to make young Kashmiri men and women abjure their faith become public,” the letter reads.
The grand mufti claimed to possess a video cassette purportedly showing Rev Khanna urging young Kashmiri Muslims to embrace Christianity. “I will take all necessary measures in exercise of the powers vested in me by Islamic sharia. It is a matter of grave concern that Christian missionaries active here should be running an organised and integrated campaign to convert young Kashmiri Muslims to Christianity,” he said.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, head of the diocese of Amritsar in the Church of North India (CNI) said: "“I have verified is that these people used to come to the Church for more than one year and they and they expressed their desire for baptism Our founding fathers ensured each of us citizens of our country the free will to choose their religion and if one wants of his own free will to choose or change his or her faith it is his or her constitutional right"
The bishop, expressing fear for the safety of Rev. Khanna has called the allegations of inducing conversion "bogus and baseless". "These allegations are fabricated as we neither we have the money nor do we have any material benefits to offer anyone desirous of Baptism. Furthermore, he pointed out that the converts in detention have categorically denied to the police the allegation of inducement brought out by Muslim groups. "Our schools and our hospitals have served the people of the Valley for over one hundred years and if the conversion had been our purpose and goal, how come the Christian population of Kashmir is so small? And if someone wants to become a Muslim, would there be such a noise? So why is this issue being raised?", asks the bishop.
Police say they have asked the Rev. Khanna not to move from home for his safety. But the bishop PKSamantaroy told AsiaNews: "Yes, there are concerns about the safety of Rev. Khanna, and since he was asked not to move from home, but there is no official communication, he is virtually under house arrest, and this is illegal, since it is the duty of the State to provide for his safety. "
Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has urged the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure protection to Rev. Khanna. In a letter to Chief Minister, the President wrote: "Given the recent serious developments in Kashmir, which could endanger the life of an innocent Christian pastor, and put at risk the harmony between the communities in the country, we demand immediate action to take the necessary measures to protect the life of the unfairly targeted person, Rev. C.M. Khanna ". The President Sajan K George points out that Shari'a does not apply to India, and that the Grand Mufti's request to appear before an Islamic court "is uncalled for, unconstitutional and also very much humiliating the very constitution of our country."