Srinagar (AsiaNews) - A Catholic school was burned last night and two other Protestant schools were attacked in the province of Jammu and Kashmir, following the "Burn the Koran" campaign launched by the Rev. Terry Jones in the U.S.. Yesterday morning a Protestant school and a church was burned.
The Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar, Mgr. Peter Celestine called for a return to peace in the region. "Religious leaders – he old AsiaNews - have a responsibility to bring peace, tolerance and coexistence."
Last night at 7.30, an angry mob set fire to the Good Shepherd School in Pulwama in response to the attempt to desecrate the Koran. Unlike yesterday morning with the Protestant school, this time the police intervened in force, reducing damage to the prestigious institution.
There are reports that Muslim groups have attempted to attack two Protestant schools, the Christ School and Christ Mohalla School in Pooch Jammu.
The situation is tense and curfew continues to be imposed the area. All movement is prohibited and it is risky to venture outside of homes during the day.
All flights to and from Srinagar are suspended for three days because of the unrest caused by the "Burn the Koran" campaign, which here however also takes on an anti-Indian and anti-American sentiment. Yesterday the clashes between police and thousands of demonstrators caused at least 17 dead and 80 wounded.
Bishop Peter Celestine expresses all his concern to AsiaNews: "I am deeply saddened by this mob incited violence, we are a micro minority community [0.0014% of the population], which is peaceful and tolerant. Additionally, we give good witness through our schools. And this school was targeted last night, yesterday the Christian Mission Society School, in Tangmarg was completely burnt down, and the resulting violence led to many deaths. Peace must be restored, we religious leaders have a responsibility to lead peace and tolerance and coexistence"
According to the prelate, the small Catholic community has always had "cordial relations with our Muslim brothers and with the authorities." To confirm this, yesterday the attack on the Protestant school was ordered by separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, placed under house arrest by Indian authorities. "I call on all Muslims - he said - to protect members of minorities and their religious sites. We must maintain at all costs the ancient brotherhood and harmony between communities, for which Kashmir is known throughout the world. "
It should however be remembered that over the years the struggle for the independence of Kashmir have been infiltrated by radical Muslim groups, giving the project a fundamentalist stamp and linking it to the struggles in Iran and the Middle East. Yesterday in the demonstrations anti-Indian slogans were chanted, but also anti-US and anti-Israel, a fact that, quite new in the political landscape of India.
The attempt to Islamize Kashmir, eliminating other minorities - Sikhs, Hindus and Christians - is growing.
The same Good Shepherd School, attacked last night, was the subject of violence in past years, since its founding in 1997. In 2003 it was twice attacked by Islamic fundamentalists in the same year, its founder, Fr Jim Borst, was struck with the charge of proselytism and threatened with expulsion. According to the fundamentalists, the priest convinced the school children to become Christians. In July, Fr. Brost, the only Mill Hill missionary who lives in the area since 1963, received a deportation order, even though four months earlier the central authorities had renewed his permit to stay until 2014.