Conversion allegations fabricated: Bishop *Kashmir pastor arrested for baptizing seven Muslims
His clarification came two days after pastor C.M. Khanna of the All India Saints Church in Kashmir was arrested on November 19 on charges of forcibly converting Muslim youth to Christianity.
Khanna was charged with alleged conversion after a video showed him converting a group of Muslim men earlier this month. He was sent to police custody for a week.
As there are no anti-conversion laws existing in the state, the pastor has been apparently booked for disturbing peace and hurting religious sentiments of the people.
The head of the Sharia court in Kashmir, Mufti Mohd Bashiruddin, was quoted by media as saying that the pastor was found guilty of the charges and even had “confessed” to his crime.
“The allegations are fabricated and no material benefits were offered to anyone desirous of baptism,” the bishop said.
A special investigation team is probing the case and seven converts-six from central Kashmir’s Budgam and one from south Kashmir’s Bijbehara areas-have been questioned.
“The youngsters had voluntarily expressed their desire for baptism. The converts in detention have denied the allegation that they were forced to become Christians,” Bishop Samantaroy said.
Meanwhile pastor Khanna refuted the allegations, saying “I have never gone to anyone’s house to share about Jesus.”
“But in the church, it is my responsibility to preach God’s word. I can’t refuse anyone,” he said.
The pastor said the youngsters, who had been coming to the church on their own, had expressed the desire to be baptised in due course.
Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday held a conference of Muslim clergy to discuss ways “to arrest the activities of Christian missionaries”.
“Everyone has a right to preach their religion but taking advantage of somebody’s helplessness and luring them by offering money…will never be tolerated,” he said.
Kashmir pastor arrested for baptizing seven Muslims
Jammu and Kashmir, November 21, 2011: The region’s grand mufti accused Rev Chander Mani Khanna, of All Saints Church, after a video appeared on YouTube. Police beat the seven young converts to get them to accuse the pastor of forced conversions. In early November, the grand mufti summoned Rev Khanna to appear before a Sharia Court.
Police in Kashmir arrested Rev Chander Mani Khanna of the All Saints Church after the head of the Kashmir Shariat Court accused the Christian clergyman of converting Muslims in exchange of money. The case began on 8 November when Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-Din summoned him to appear before the court to explain the alleged conversions.
To back his accusation, the Grand Mufti used a video that appeared on YouTube that shows Rev Khanna baptising seven young Muslim men and women. The same video was then linked by other online platforms provoking an avalanche of verbal attacks against the clergyman.
“Rev Khanna’s arrest is an attack against religious freedom,” said Predhuman K Joseph Dhar, a scholar who translated the Bible in Kashmiri. “The situation is tense and there is great concern that someone might threaten his life.” “Having failed to do what we asked you to do, we are forced to take measures based on the Sharia,” the Grand Mufti said in a letter to the clergyman. Afterwards, “police arrested seven people, the seven men and women who are baptised by rev Khanna in the video. According to witnesses, police beat the seven in order to testify against the pastor.”
The Jammu Christian Federation called on the government “to release the pastor since administering the baptism on consenting adults is his prerogative.” “The rights of Christians are being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and convenience,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). “Christians too are entitled to minority rights. Allowing a Sharia Court to enforce its laws on Christians represents an end to the rule of law and equality of Indian citizens.”
Kashmir does not have any anti-conversion law. In fact, police arrested the clergyman under Articles 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.