Over 20,000 converted to Christianity since 1990 in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Over 20,000 Kashmiri Muslims are reported to have converted to Christianity since the inception of militancy in 1990. Information gathered from various sources reveal that Christian missionaries made their way into Kashmir in a big way soon after the armed turmoil hit the state and tried to reach out to what Christianity Today — an evangelical periodical — said (in a report on September 9, 2002) war-weary Muslims in Kashmir. The periodical put the number of neo-Christian then to 15000.
The conversions are likely to have surged past 20,000 with over a dozen Christian missions and churches based in the US, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland operating in the state. Pulwama, Budgam and Baramullah besides border villages in Kupwara and Bandipora, upper belts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan are the prime targets of evangelists.
Hundreds of people attacked a Christian School at Pulwama on September 15, 2006 and damaged the building, ransacked furniture alleging that students of the school were being persuaded by the staff members to convert. Then deputy commissioner Pulwama Meraj Ahmad Kakroo ordered the closure of the school. The school re-opened only after the management assured the district authorities that they would respect the faith of the students.
The government had to close down the relief work by Christian missionaries in earthquake-hit Uri in 2005 after it received the complaints of Christian relief workers motivating the affected people for conversion.
Presently 15 missionaries are reported to be engaged in conversion business. They are reported to be working in close coordination under a well-thought out strategy.
“The evangelists have designated areas and communities for each group. One of the groups known as Campus Crusade for Christ has been assigned the task of working among student community. Presently their area of operations is south Kashmir. FRONTIERS, another groups, is working in Gujjar belts in higher reaches of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan.
German Town Baptist Church is targeting the poor villagers in Pattan, Tangmarg, Beerwah and Sangrama areas. A sub-group of the missionary is working in the villages surrounding the capital Srinagar. The missionaries are working among surrendered and released militants as well. This group is known as Operation Gape. Another group Assemblies of God has been concentrating on villages around Budgam, Chrar, Pakharpora and Yousmarg belts. Gospel of Asia is reported to be working in border villages of Baramullah, Kupwara and Bandipora districts. Al Bashar Mission, The Goodway, Call of Hope and Overseas Social Service, Indian Pentecostal Church of God, Roman Catholic Missionaries, Gospel for Asia (GFA) and National Missionary Intelligence are other evangelist groups operating in Kashmir.
A north Kashmir religious Madrassa is presently working on 115 Kashmiri Christian converts to bring them back to Islamic fold. A functionary of the Madrassa involved in the job told the Honour that the Madrassa has already brought back 150 converts over the past some months. He said that there are reports of scores of other people who have converted to Christianity. “We are collecting details. We would try to catch them all and persuade them to revert to Islam”, he said.
Details also revealed that the conversions are voluntary, and are done for material benefits. One of the eight converts, whose video was posted on YouTube recently, is reported to have converted for a paltry sum of Rs. 5000. He is a poor labourer who changed religion in the hope of getting some financial aid from the Christian Missionary to pay off bank loan his father had taken.
Even more shocking is the societal response to these conversions. The ritual press statements, street protests, in-house meetings, seminars and routine condemnations was all that came up from the religious leadership. Mufti Bashiruddin did not move beyond asking for expulsion of Pastors. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq revived his 2004 Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema, held over a dozen meetings, issued statements in proportion to those meetings and slept. The other Imams, Khateebs, Muftis and Moulanas also followed the suit. The only ‘extraordinary’ thing the Mirwaiz did was to launch a website to counter conversions and Christian missionaries. But one would like to know from the Mirwaiz how would this website help an illiterate and poor labourer of a remote village to protect his faith or to a person to pay off his bank loan.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and his Ulema majlis have indeed called for setting up Baitul Malls (Welfare Fund). But who will set up these welfare centers? The initiative should have come from the religious leadership. The leadership cannot absolve from its duty merely by delivering sermons. They need to be the embodiment of what they say. They have to set the example by themselves. Let our leaders set up some Baitul Mall from their personal resources. They have huge assets and resources, why should they look towards common people to take the initiative. Let they take the lead, people will follow.

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