Missionary forced to leave Kashmir because his schools are "too good"
Srinagar (AsiaNews) - Fr Jim Borst, a Dutch Catholic missionary, in charge of two schools must leave Kashmir and India by the end of July after receiving notice from the government of Jammu-Kashmir. Fr. Borst already received a similar warning in 2003, but just four months ago the government had renewed his visa until 2014.
Fr. Borst is the only member of the Institute Mill Hill missionary in the Kashmir valley and along with Predhuman Joseph Dhar, a Brahmin Hindu convert to Catholicism who is very close to Fr. Borst, had been working on a tranlstion of the Bible into the local Kashmir language. The Mill Hill institute has been present in Jammu-Kashmir since 1891-92, where it has always been involved in educational and health care.
"I'm really sorry. It is a great loss for me and the entire civil society of Kashmir. Fr. Borst has lived here since 1963", Mgr. Peter Celestine, Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar, tells AsiaNews.
Predhuman Joseph Dhar, tells AsiaNews: "The notice is a sparked by jealous vested interests”.
Fr. Borst has run two schools in Kashmir since 1997. Both are called "School of the Good Shepherd", one in Pulwama and the other in Shivpora, Srinagar. The Dutch Catholic priest has always been active in education and his schools, where staff is 99% Muslim, is renowned for the quality of teaching.
Joseph Dhar believes that this is why they want to remove Fr. Borst: "The Muslim intelligentsia schools are unable to compete with his". Twice, in 2003 the schools of the Good Shepherd were attacked and accused of trying to convert children to Christianity.
Previously Fr. Borst directed St. Joseph School in Baramulla and Burn Hall School in Srinagar. The educational facilities of Catholic and Protestant missionaries in Jammu-Kashmir have never had the aim of proselytism. Many Muslim personalities in position of authority were educated in these schools such as Omar Abdullah, the current head of government in Jammu-Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, a former head of government, and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, one of the founders of Aphc (All Parties Hurriyat Conference).
Jammu-Kashmir is a state in northern India that Pakistan has claimed for decades. In Kashmir the Christian population counts 14 thousand faithful, less than 0.0014% of the population, which is 97% Muslim.