By Ritu Sharma and Francis Rodrigues
An official from the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) says the arrest and expulsion of a pastor for alleged proselytizing has tarnished the image of Christians in Kashmir.
Kashmiris appreciate the work of Christians work “but now they have some reservations that the community is using devious means to convert people,” Samuel Jaykumar said yesterday.
Jaykumar was speaking after returning from a March 1-4 tour of the predominantly Muslim Jammu and Kashmir state to assess the situation.
The visit came on the heels of the arrest and expulsion of Reverend C.M. Khanna, a Church of North India pastor, by an Islamic court last month.
The court had also ordered another Protestant pastor and a Catholic priest to leave the state.
Khanna was arrested on November 19 after a video surfaced allegedly showing him converting a group of Muslim youths.
He was charged with disturbing the peace and hurting people’s religious sentiments.
Jaykumar, executive secretary of the council’s commission on policy, governance and public witness, said the video has made Muslims in Kashmir suspicious of Christians.
He said his visit was aimed at helping ease the distrust between the two communities.
Although people in India have the right to practice the religion of their choice, the NCCI does not approve conversion through inducement and other methods that contradict Christian values, Jaykumar explained.
At the same, the NCCI would like the state government to stop right-wing Muslim groups to take law in their hands.
“This will make the situation worse for communal harmony in the state,” he added.
Meanwhile, another pastor was arrested and later released on bail on March 4 for allegedly indulging in conversion activities in Karnataka.
New Life pastor K Manohar was praying with a group of around 50 people in a house in Ankola when five policemen and 20 youths barged into the house.
They accused him of proselytizing and threatened him.
Pastor Lakshminarayana Gowda, coordinator of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said, “It is not one single incident. There is a systematic process to curtail our religious freedom.”