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    » 09/16/2010, 00.00

    ISLAM - INDIA

    Kashmir: Muslims try to burn a Christian school (only in name)

    Shefali Prabhu

    It is the St Francis School, owned by Muslims, who use the Christian name to attract more students. Four dead and 19 injured in Mendhar, while protests spread in Kashmir. The influence of fundamentalist groups on the masses, dragged from their villages to demonstrate. Missionary priest Jim Borst under police protection.

    Mendhar (AsiaNews) - A mob of Muslim radicals have tried to burn a school with a Christian name (St. Francis School), unaware that it is governed by Muslim and Christian in name only. The police managed to stop the arsonists, but fired into the crowd, killing four people and wounding 19. Christian leaders say "these people are being manipulated.

    The protest against the "Burn the Koran" campaign is spreading in several areas of Kashmir and has already left 22 dead and hundreds injured. The events used the announced (but subsequently cancelled) desecration of the Koran in the United States, to increase the tension against the Indian government, which refuses to grant autonomy to the region, also disputed by Pakistan.

    After three days of demonstrations and violence, protests erupted yesterday in Mendhar, about 60 km from Poonch near the border with Pakistan. From 10 am at least 3,000 people gathered also from nearby villages, marching towards the school of St Francis and the residences of teachers.

    The crowd were stopped by the police who used firearms, batons and tear gas grenades. In the clashes four demonstrators were killed and 19 wounded. The mob destroyed dozens of government offices, the police station and burned at least eight cars.

    The irony is that the school targeted is Christian in name only and is owned by local Muslims, even if the teaching staff is made up of Christians from Kerala.

    Mgr. Peter Celestine, bishop of Srinagar tells AsiaNews: "The so-called St Francis School has nothing to do with Catholic Protestant or evangelical institutions. They only use the Christian name to attract students. This shows that even for the local Muslims, Christian educational institutions have a very high standard”.

    "These people - he added –are rounded up from nearby villages and incited to attack, inflamed by religious zeal."

    In recent days, however, some Catholic schools were affected. Among them the Good Shepherd's School of missionary Jim Borst, in Pulwama. The mob burned the main building and two other buildings were looted. Witnesses said the protesters were from villages under the influence of "Allahwales" and Devbandis "fundamentalist groups close to the Wahhabis.

    Local people, Muslim, expressed solidarity with the missionary and say they are ready to help re-start the school. Fr. Jim, for his part, sent a letter to the families linked to the school, promising to reopen immediately as soon as the curfew ends. Meanwhile the priest is under police protection to prevent attacks against him.

    On 14 September another school risked being burnt: it is the Christ School in Poonch. Only police intervention stopped the mob just 500 meters from the building.

    Fr. Matthew, the principal told AsiaNews: "We have 1522 students and only 40 are Christians, 40% of the students are Muslims, then there are Hindus and Sikhs. We have always enjoyed a deep respect from the locals. Many Islamic authorities have expressed their displeasure at the attempt to burn the school and condemned the attack. But people are manipulated and have been driven to a frenzy by false news reports".    

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    See also

    29/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Third church attacked as Pakistani extremists declare war over Florida Koran burning
    Yesterday afternoon, an armed group attacked the Catholic Church of St. Thomas in the military district of Wah, 45 km from Islamabad. The fundamentalists hurled stones and tried to burn the building. Bishop of the capital, we are Pakistani Christians, we have no ties with the United States. Young Christians: no hope for the future.

    28/03/2011 PAKISTAN - UNITED STATES
    Two Christians killed, churches burned: extremists respond to Florida Koran burning
    In Hyderabad and Lahore, a mob of Islamic fundamentalists targeted the Christian places of worship. Desecrated several copies of the Bible. Anti-American slogans and demonstrations in different cities of Pakistan. The extremists pledge more violence, if Washington does not condemn pastor Jones to death. Bishop of Islamabad: the gesture of a "fanatic."

    14/09/2010 INDIA
    The fruits of "Burn the Koran": Catholic school burnt two Protestant schools targeted
    The Good Shepherd School in Pulwama targeted; attack against Christ School and Christ Mohalla School in Pooch Jammu. The Catholic school had already been targeted in 2003. Kashmir Autonomist leader defends Christians, but fundamentalism is growing in the region. The founder of the Good Shepherd, Fr Jim Borst had received a deportation order. Curfew continues in the region. All flights to and from Srinagar are suspended for three days.

    16/02/2009 PAKISTAN
    Marginalization, threats, and misery for families charged with blasphemy
    Arrests, fines, humiliations, lack of security, and possible attacks are typical for families whose members have been accused of blasphemy against the Qur'an. The case of James Masih and Boota Masih, sentenced to 10 years without any proof.

    31/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Minister calls on Interpol and the Pope to condemn Florida Koran burning
    Rehman Malik wrote letters to Benedict XVI and the international agency, calling for the condemnation of the act and an exemplary punishment. The Senate approves a resolution calling for the U.S. to take action against the evangelical preacher. Pakistani Christians emphasize their belonging to the country and denounce the “insane” gesture, the cause of a new wave of persecutions.



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