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7889Muslim Kashmir converting to Christianity

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  • Zafar Khan
    Mar 3, 2007
      Christians and the Valley
      Tuesday, 02 January 2007
      A large number of Kashmiris have converted to
      Christianity in recent years. Khursheed Wani finds out
      source: Daily Pioneer, December 31,2006


      A large number of Kashmiris have converted to
      Christianity in recent years. Khursheed Wani finds out

      Can violence change the demography of a region?

      The continuing 17-year separatist violence in Kashmir
      has somewhat disturbed the religious and ethnic make
      up of the Muslim-dominated Valley. On the one hand, a
      0.2 million strong Hindu Pandit population has been
      reduced to a mere 6,000 scattered individuals
      following a mass exodus in 1990. On the other, an
      entirely new phenomenon - the conversion of Muslims to
      Christianity - has cropped up. It is being estimated
      that the Christian population in the valley has
      increased from a mere 650 people (according to the
      1981census) to something to the tune of 13,000.

      But if the Pandits left the Valley for fear of the
      gun, Christian missionaries have actually cashed in on
      that fear. The majority of Christians in Kashmir have
      converted to that religion during the years of

      It is not a hidden fact that conversions are taking
      place regularly across the valley, though the numbers
      are debatable in the absence of an authentic census. A
      survey in the valley, particularly in Srinagar,
      reveals that around a dozen Christian missions and
      churches headquartered in the US, Germany, the
      Netherlands and Switzerland have set up base. Their
      evangelists are the first to reach areas where
      violence and natural calamities take place, to provide
      help and consolation. A Catholic evangelist based in
      Srinagar was among the first to reach the site of a
      700-year-old Muslim shrine gutted in a mysterious fire
      in December 1998 at Tral, among the first to reach
      village in March 2000 where 35 Sikhs were massacred,
      and again among the first to reach Uri which was
      ravaged by the October 8, 2005 earthquake. The token
      presence of such men and the help they provide makes a
      great impression on those under severe trauma. The aid
      workers do not fail to talk about the Gospel.

      Over the years, Christian converts were mustering up
      courage to express and exhibit their new faith. And so
      churches like Holy Family Catholic Church and the All
      Saints Church as well as several underground houses of
      worship set up in areas like Shivpora were receiving
      sizeable numbers of worshippers on Sundays. The
      bishops admit that they baptise newcomers on each
      occasion. It
      may not sound surprising that a female convert from
      Kashmir University has translated the Bible into
      Kashmiri. And two girls in a south Kashmir village had
      insisted that their father be buried in a coffin,
      according to Christian tradition.

      But all this changed after November 11 this year, when
      militants attacked a Christian convert in Mamoosa
      village in north Kashmir's Pattan belt. Bashir Ahmad
      Tantray, a 50-year-old electrical engineer, was shot
      dead from a point blank range. Tantray, villagers say,
      had left his village a decade ago after joining a
      philanthropist organisation. He had actually converted
      to Christianity. Three years ago, he confirmed having
      changed his faith to a reporter in Srinagar and said
      he was committed to the spread of Christianity. Among
      other things, he was supervising a hostel - called
      House of Peace - in a posh Srinagar locality where
      several dozen children belonging to poor families from
      Anantnag, Pulwama and Baramulla districts were
      allegedly being brought up as Christians.

      Tantray's killing shocked Kashmir's Christian
      community, forcing them to maintain a low profile. The
      government has also instructed Kashmiri Christians to
      lie low. Though no militant outfit claimed
      responsibility for Tantray's killing, a common refrain
      is that separatist Islamist militants have carried
      out the act. So frightened were the villagers after
      Tantray's death that they buried him in a Muslim
      graveyard and offered nimaz-e-jinah as per Muslim

      But that murder was not the first sign of
      resentment against Kashmiri converts. Last year, a
      cameraman with a local television network was killed
      in the Tral pocket of south Kashmir for alleged
      conversion. Then, militants targeted two female
      teachers working in a south Kashmir missionary school,
      killing one of them and injuring the other. Four
      months ago, the Good Shepherd School in Pulwama was
      temporarily closed down by the local administration
      following an attack by the public. The people claimed
      that the school authorities were forcing children to
      convert to Christianity. Employees of the school also
      say they have received threats. In Uri, a Christian
      NGO was asked to wind up by the local administration
      following a public demonstration when its workers
      distributed religious literature among quake hit
      villagers along with the relief material.

      It is believed Kashmiri Christians are directly
      linked with groups in New Delhi and receive overseas
      funding through this channel.

      Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) officials
      in New Delhi strongly resented Tantray's killing and
      other attacks on Christians. Rev Richard Howell, EFI
      secretary-general, had reportedly blamed militants for
      the attacks.

      EFI released an extensive report on the killing.
      "We mourn the death of Tantray and request prayers for
      the family in their time of grief," the report said.
      Tehmina Arora, secretary of EFI's legal department,
      was quoted as saying that Christian groups are
      "concerned about the growing number of incidents
      against Christians in the state." Rev Howell had said
      his organisation would discuss the matter with the
      state administration.

      The Muslim clergy in Kashmir is not much worried
      by reports of conversions. Some of them say the
      figures are being deliberately exaggerated. But others
      see a definite threat. About three years ago, Mirwaiz
      Omar Farooq, Kashmir's head preacher and leader of a
      faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference,
      organised a forum of ulemas from different Islamic
      schools of thought to chalk out a strategy to counter
      evangelist threats. The forum, however, had only three
      meetings. "The ulemas were not concerned about the
      gravity of the problem. They instead attempted to
      concentrate on the conflicts within the different
      Muslim schools of thought," lamented Showkat Shah,
      chief of a Muslim religious organisation.

      Stories they don't want told


      .... Since the end of March, Christian evangelism has
      been making ever-widening ripples in the American
      press. To the best of my knowledge, it began with a
      report in the Mercury News on faith-based groups
      poised to give humanitarian aid in Iraq once the war
      subsided: "They see it as a golden opportunity to
      convert this predominantly Muslim country to
      Christianity, and along with supplies, they carry the
      New Testament and the message of Jesus Christ."

      Conversions, a trade in Kashmir?
      Posted November 27, 2006
      Mufti Isiah
      November 26, 2006
      CNN -IBN live


      Srinagar: The grieving family of Bashir Ahmed Tantray,
      a Christian convert who was shot in this sleepy Pattan
      village, is scared after his death.

      He had been accused of converting poor Muslims by
      offering them money and his family denies these
      allegations and says he was killed for embracing

      “If Bashir had converted, that was his will. They
      should have brought him back to Islam by convincing
      him, not killing him,” says Tantray's brother, Nazir

      There are close to 2000 families who have converted to
      Christianity in Kashmir. Christian Evangelists say
      Kashmiris are joining their faith by choice, and no
      money or any other form of incentive is offered in

      “We don't go to ask them to get converted. They come
      to us and ask us to follow our way and we welcome
      them. Christian church is not a rich church and we
      don't have resources. It is a complete
      misunderstanding. Most people love peace of mind and
      if they find peace of mind in Christianity, that is
      what they are looking for,” says pastor of church of
      North India, Yonathan Paljor.

      However, some people allege that converts are given
      quality education and job opportunities abroad. Like
      Tantray's children, who are studying in India's best
      colleges, something that would be hard for him to
      afford with a salary of Rs 15,000 a month.

      Meanwhile, Muslim scholars are not too pleased with
      the issue.

      “If conversions are happening by paying money. It is
      very wrong. Even Christianity does not allow it,” says
      Chairman, Jamaitul Ahlihadees, Showkat Ahmad.

      Kashmir: The Land Of
      Widows And Orphans
      By Pradeep Mohinder
      02 March, 2007


      Rape of women, disappearance, illegal
      detain,threatening at gun point, molestation, loot and
      terrorising raids by security forces and by unknown
      gunmen have been a day to day phenomena in Kashmir
      valley and in border districts of Jammu.

      Seventeen years of turmoil has not only ruined the
      Jammu Kashmir economically but, has turned the valley
      in to the land of widows and orphans. It is matter of
      fact that that in state there are more than
      twenty-five thousand orphans (25,000) and
      approximately six thousand 6000 widows in state but
      Central and State government are un aware of this
      amazing and horrifying fact and they only have data of
      arms and ammunition recovered or militants gun down by
      security forces during search operations.

      The most affected and neglected areas are border
      districts, like Kupwara, Anantnag, Pulwama and
      Baramulla in the valley and Rajouri, Poonch and
      Udhampur in Jammu region.

      These women has not lost only their husbands but also
      source of livelihood with them.These poverty struck
      women have nothing to feed their children and number
      of other insecuries hunt them in the absence of their

      The people of the state are not only harassed and
      raped by unknown gunmen but even India army is doing
      the same.

      In 1991 Indian army raped 30 women in Kunan- Poshpura
      in Kupwara aged between 18 to 85 years, but till the
      date these women has got no compensation nor justice
      from the government. Even young girls who were yet to
      be married are still awaiting that some day some one
      will come to marry them and they are living in cow
      sheds and waiting for justice.

      If one will visit the Deevar, Sogam, Dardpora and
      other villages of border district Kupwara will find
      hundred of widows and thousand of orphans at the mercy
      of god. One of the widows from village Dardpora named
      Shakeela said “I have three children. My husband was
      taken for interrogation in 1994 and after few days his
      body was found in the jungle. He was killed with
      bullets pumped into his body. After his death I have
      no other option other than to beg or to go for illicit

      It is matter of concern that most of the married women
      face the problem of miscarriages, which is one of the
      fastest growing problem in the rural and border areas
      of state yet to be noticed by the health department of

      The young widows and teenaged orphan girls are facing
      more problems due to their youth as they are always at
      danger of molestation and getting raped.

      One of the widow Reehana aged 22 from Deever said
      “being young I am always being harassed and molested
      both by security forces and renegade and that has
      become the day to day routine. Even though I am
      educated still I cannot go out to work because of all

      Even the NGOs, which are trying to help them, are not
      able tro perform well because of government hurdles.
      Ghulam Nabi a tailor at J&K Yateem Trust Craft Centre,
      in the village Deevar said, “Even though these girls
      get free tranning in tailoring , they are not able to
      earn their livelihood as the village has limited
      resources and government has done nothing to
      facilitate their skill .

      Safe means of livelihood for these widows and orphans
      is very important otherwise, when the young boys and
      girls grow up in such deprived condition either they
      will definitely follow the gun culture or fall victims
      to the pimps.