There is evidence to prove charges against Christian missionaries: Grand Mufti

Police registered a case on Saturday on the basis of allegations that Christian missionaries in Kashmir were encouraging conversions. It is likely to arrest a pastor whose name figured in a complaint lodged before the Grand Mufti of Kashmir.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, the Srinagar police registered an FIR under sections 153-A, 295 and 186 of the Ranbir Penal Code. The decision was taken at the highest level to avoid possible unrest in the Valley.

“We have registered a case and we are looking into a CD which has been given to us in support of the allegations made about the conversion,” a senior police officer told The Hindu on condition of anonymity. However, no one had been named in the FIR. That would be done after the investigation was completed and the allegations were prima facie established.

The All Saints Church, against whose pastor C.M. Khanna the allegations had been levelled, falls under the jurisdiction of the Ram Munshi Bagh station.

The Mufti had summoned pastor Khanna on Friday to explain his position but he could not make it. If he failed to appear on November 12, then his office would be forced to issue a fatwa [a religious decree] in connection with the conversions and against the pastor, the Mufti warned.

The pastor said he was ready to meet the Grand Mufti on November 15. He told The Hindu that he had conveyed to the Mufti that he had some engagements on November 12. “I spoke to him and he has agreed. I am writing him a mail in this regard,” he said. “I could not meet him on Friday as I was out of station.” He said there was a need to “build bridges” between the two communities.

The summons to the pastor followed a written complaint that “young Kashmiri boys and girls are being lured to Christianity with offer of money.” The complaint was supported by video evidence.

“In the video which we have received from a respected citizen of Srinagar, a missionary unveils a Kashmiri Muslim girl and she is thus initiated into Christianity. The video also shows many boys who are baptised,” claimed the Grand Mufti who is also the Chairman of the J&K Muslim Personal Law Board.

The Mufti said his office had received several complaints in the past against the pastor and the mission he was heading here.

“Though he appeared before us and explained his position, at that time we did not take the complaints seriously. But now the complaints appear grave in nature as they are supported by evidence. Besides, we have reports that the missionaries are indulging in conversions in some rural areas of Kashmir too.”

‘For spiritual solace’

Pastor Khanna denied the charges levelled against him and his church. “Ours is a local church which doesn't get funding from outside. And we are dependent on the local people who come here seeking spiritual solace. So we tell them that you have to support the church financially also.”

The pastor admitted that some young people come to the church for conversion. “I think they look for money. But we straightaway tell them we don't do this. But many more come to us for spiritual solace…Everybody can come to our church for spiritual solace and we cannot stop them.”

Registry maintained

Does the church have a record of its members? “We maintain a registry. At present, we have around 84 registered members. As for the population of Christians in the whole Valley, it cannot be more than 500.”