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J&K conversions not forced: Church

india Updated: Nov 22, 2011 01:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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A top Christian cleric has denied allegations that missionaries in Kashmir are forcing Muslim youth to convert to Christianity.

“The allegations were fabricated and no material benefits were offered to anyone desirous of baptism,” Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, head of the Diocese of Amritsar for the Church of North India, was quoted as saying by the website, Christian Today, on Monday.

Two days ago, the J&K police had detained and questi-oned CM Khanna, a pastor of the All India Saints Church, following a complaint before the Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Bashir-u-din. Khanna was sent to a week’s police custody.

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,” the website quoted Samantaroy as saying.

Another website, Christian Messenger, quoted the detained pastor, Khanna, refuting forcible conversions. “I have never gone to anyone’s house to share about Jesus,” he said in the website. “But in the church, it is my responsibility to preach God’s word. I can’t refuse anyone.”

Pastor Khanna said Muslim youngsters, who had been coming to the church on their own, had expressed desire to be baptised in due course.

Meanwhile, 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.