05/31/2012, 00.00
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Still no culprit for Kashmir Church fire. Fear among local Catholics

by Nirmala Carvalho
The police can not identify those responsible, despite the footage of security cameras. Brahmin Hindu convert to Catholicism: "The local community is left to itself, the church authorities must act." Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar: "The situation is tense, but the Church in India strongly supports us."

Srinagar (AsiaNews) - Nothing new in the case of the fire that threatened to destroy the Holy Family Church in Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir), throwing the Catholic community in fear. More than a week after the accident, the police have not yet identified the perpetrators, despite the parish priest Fr. Mathew Thomas supplying them with video from surveillance cameras. "The pictures - he explains to AsiaNews - are not clear, but the police have the opportunity to improve their quality." According Predhuman Joseph Dhar, a Kashmiri Brahmin Hindu (Pandits) converted to Catholicism, the apparent little attention paid to the case by the authorities is an indication of the condition of "abandonment" of the Christian community by the state.

According to Dhar, the episode "should push the Church in India to open its eyes to the situation in which the Christian community lives here." Jammu and Kashmir, the only state with a Muslim majority and its own constitution, does not recognize the ecclesiastical authorities as governmental entities. "This - says the Catholic to AsiaNews - has led the Church to believe that having three schools was sufficient as a 'mission'". But to educate and raise a community, he adds, "more is needed. It means encouraging and supporting the local population in particular, not only those coming from other parts of the country to work in their schools."

For Dhar, the risk is that Christians become victims of ethnic cleansing by Islamic fundamentalists just like the pandits in the early '90s. In 1990, he had to leave his job (head of government education), and Kashmir, and moved into Jammu. "I did not received any help, and indeed, my forced exile was minimized by many. Now, even in Jammu Catholics feel less secure; in Kashmir, they have been reduced to zero. The same  in Ladakh."

Msgr. Elampassery Peter Celestine, Bishop of Jammu-Srinagar is less negative. "The situation is tense - he admits to AsiaNews - this is true. Catholics here are a minority and are afraid of more attacks, they worry, and feel hurt by this attack on the heart of the community. However, the Church in India strongly supports us, and is with us in finding the culprits. "

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