Published: 11:00 GMT Daylight Time - Saturday 02 June 2012
Church torched, Christians threatened and attacked in Indian state
Country/Region: South and East Asia, India
A 119-year-old church was torched by Muslim extremists in an Indian state where Christians are under mounting pressure; over 400 have fled their homes as a result of threats from Muslims.
The church in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, was set ablaze on 23 May; while the guard was away, the offenders threw a petrol bomb into the building.
Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of Jammu-Srinagar said that the Muslim fundamentalists want Christians to leave the state, and because they are a minority, cannot resist the pressure.
He said that the church had filed a case with the police but had been advised not to “play up” such incidents.
Earlier this year, the church minister’s motorcycle was set on fire while parked on the veranda of his residence.
Christians are coming under growing threat from Kashmir’s Muslim majority. A Christian human rights group in India said that over 400 Christians have been displaced as a result.
In one incident in April, three Christians were beaten up in a market place in Bandipora town where they had been handing out Gospel tracts and sharing their faith. The Rev. Mafford Maharaj Singh (62) and his wife Kusum (60) from New Delhi, and Sammena Bano, a young woman from the area, were dragged to the local mosque and then handed over to the police.
The Muslim mob who attacked them alleged that Mr and Mrs Singh had offered financial bribes to induce people to convert to Christianity.
They were held in custody and face up to five years in prison, having been accused of “promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, birth, residence”. Sammeno was released after questioning.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said that the case is evidence of the “growing pressure” on Christians by the Muslim majority in Kashmir. He added, “Life for the Christian minority is increasingly difficult.”