02/24/2011, 00.00
INDIA

Kashmir: a Christian school burnt down in Srinagar. Islamic militants suspected

by Nirmala Carvalho
The attack, preceded by threatening phone calls, took place Feb. 19. The damage amounted to 60 million rupees. The Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar: "The political unease has added to unresolved issues and tensions grow. In this tense political landscape, we Christians are the victims. "

Srinagar (AsiaNews) - Suspected Islamic militants set fire on Feb. 19 to the School of the Convent of St. Luke, a Protestant educational institution that began its activities about 17 years ago in Srinagar, Kashmir. The damage is estimated at 60 million rupees (958 thousand euro). The attack occurred at about 22.30 local time. Eight rooms, including classrooms, library and computer labs were completely destroyed.

The school's principal, Grace Paljor, said they are currently compiling an inventory of the damages, which are now calculated for 60 million rupees. She also claims to have been verbally threatened, several times, before the accident, for being Christian. The school has 450 students. At the time of the attack it was closed for the holidays and so there was no harm to people. The school will reopen on 1 March.

"The school administration is used to receiving threatening phone calls from time to time from extremists. They had threatened to set fire to the school, and have carried out their threat. After the Tyndale Biscoe was burned in August of 2010, the extremists have begun to target the Christian schools in the valley. We complained to the Munshi Bagh police station. " Sources have told AsiaNews that the school has been targeted because of baseless rumours about a conversion.

"We live in precarious times here in a state with a Muslim majority, and we hope that the sentiments against us will not grow. The political unease has added to unresolved issues between us and tensions are growing. In this tense political landscape, we Christians are the victims”, denounced Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery, OFM, of the Catholic Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar. "However, even though Catholics are a tiny minority, that is just 0.014% of the population, the Church has for decades made a significant contribution to the advancement and development of the state, thanks to our mission of education, health and social institutions, our contribution to state-building is appreciated, though sadly, in moments of tension, some marginal groups spread malicious rumours, target our work and sow suspicion and division".

The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has condemned the attack. Sajan K. George told AsiaNews: "Even the most mild and unfounded rumours can cause criminal acts of the fundamentalists. The school was burned down because of false and fabricated rumour of an attempted conversion. In September 2010, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson schools have suffered the same fate for the same reason. In November 2006, the GCIC coordinator for Kashmir, Bashir Tantray, was killed by Islamic militants. The Christian community has been targeted by religious fundamentalists. We demand that the authorities of Jammu and Kashmir protect Christians”.

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