As Christmas Nears, Hostility Increases In India19 December 2011
Mission Network News
New Delhi: A new report says Christians in Jammu and Kashmir, India, are afraid because of an increasing threat against them as Christmas nears. According to a report from Compass Direct News, a fact-finding team found that Muslim leaders there are rallying against Christians and evangelism. Gospel for Asia Founder & President KP Yohannan says that's not a surprise. 'Jammu Kashmir is a place with large numbers of Muslim community. Any attempt to evangelize really becomes a problem. The opposition to Christian work and Christians has a long history in Jammu Kashmir.' A Sharia court has hinted about what it plans to do to halt proselytizing and 'forced conversions' in the region. While Sharia courts don't have legal authority over non-Muslims, they can demand a halt to activities that include baptism, church meetings, and activities in Christian schools. Physical violence is not out of the question, which has increased the fear among the Christian minority. It is likely to materialize as a safety threat as Christmas nears. Yohannan says, 'Just as in the state of Orissa, during Christmas season every year we have difficulties. In these kinds of situations, we advise our workers to be careful, sober-minded, and not to antagonize.' The threat stems from last month's arrest of an area pastor who was charged with 'hurting religious sentiments of Muslims.' The Muslim leaders' reaction came after they got wind of a baptism ceremony following conversions from Islam into Christianity. Compass explained that Muslim leaders in the Kashmir Valley, which is 97 percent Muslim, began to rally against Christians after a video recording of Muslim youth being baptized at the All Saints Church was posted on YouTube in late October. Says Yohannan, 'Some people are not very wise about the information that they put out, and that really created a bigger problem.' The pastor is currently free on bail but still facing court action. Yohannan goes on to say that being smart about what they're doing goes a long way to keeping doors open for outreach. 'We did have our own share of persecution and difficulties in Jammu Kashmir. We still do have difficulties. Sometimes, some Christian workers unnecessarily put out informational reports and put stuff on Web sites, YouTube, and all that.' Yohannan asks for prayer support for their team. First, 'consistent prayer-spiritual warfare-has to be done for God to move in the Muslim communities. Secondly, pray that the people of God will have the ability to have the commitment and the courage to face difficulties.' Although the threat against believers is real throughout the volatile Kashmir Valley, it won't stop their teams. 'I'm absolutely convinced that if you preach the Gospel, people will come to know the Lord, no matter what,' says Yohannan. In the meantime, 'We need to do whatever we can in terms of providing resources and help, literature, radio broadcasts, whatever, as a means to share the love of Christ with people.'