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Christian missionaries' role under scanner in J&K

Source: PTI
February 14, 2006 11:52 IST
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The detention of Christian missionaries, who were allegedly trying to convert earthquake-affected people of Uri Tehsil in Jammu and Kashmir under the garb of providing relief, has once again brought to light the role of missionaries in the state under scanner.

The missionaries, claiming to be members of the Bible Society of India, had to shut their shop in quake-hit areas of Uri following complaints from locals that they were luring people to Christianity by offering monetary incentives, official sources said here.

A senior police official said the police had warned the missionaries to stop conversion move failing which a case would be registered against them. The group of missionaries from the Kashmir chapter of the Bible Society of India had been visiting Madian village in Uri sector and had distributed gas cylinders, water bottles, audio cassettes and a copy of the New Testament in Urdu to 230 families of the village, the official said.

Police began investigations into the complaints while the missionaries decided to beat a hasty retreat, he added.

This is the second such incident in Jammu and Kashmir. The Christain missionaries have been active in the state on the educational front for over 150 years without interfering in religious matters of the locals.

In November, 2003, the foreigners section of the state police had ordered deportation of Dutch national Father Jacobs Borst alias Jim Borst as his visa to stay in Kashmir had expired two months earlier. He was also charged with luring students of his two schools to Christainity.

Borst, who runs Good Shepherds School at Pattan in Baramulla district and Pulwama town, was a principal at St Joseph Higher Secondary till 1996 when he retired. He, however, continued to stay in the valley even after the deportation notice was served on him. Borst was seen in Srinagar at the end of 2005 as he had managed to get a special extension to his stay in Srinagar.

A police inquiry into the activities of Borst revealed that he was allegedly running makeshift churches within his school premises and had converted 50 students to Christianity. Militants in Pulwama had hurled a grenade at the school in 2004 in which several children were injured.

The Catholic Church in Srinagar denounced the alleged activities of Brost and said he had no connection with it. CMS Tyndal Biscoe School and Burn Hall School in Srinagar and St Joseph's School in Baramulla have rendered yeoman service in the educational sector in Kashmir valley.

Their record with regard to interference in religious affairs or conversions has been a clean slate.

Tremors across borders

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