By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Suspected Islamic militants have killed two Christian teenagers who were reading the Bible in the disputed Kashmir valley, divided between India and Muslim Pakistan, BosNewsLife established Tuesday, February 8.
The victims were identified as Arifa, 17, and Akthar, 19, the daughters of Gulam Nabi Dar, said local missionary Mercy Ciniraj, who knew them well. "The [murdered] girls were believers and used to read the Bible through underground ministries."
She told BosNewsLife that "the girls were shot dead" last Monday, January 31, in the Baramulla area in Indian-controlled northern Kashmir, bordering Pakistan.
They were "brutally murdered" by at least three fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan based Islamic militant "terrorist" group, she explained. Local police reportedly said in statements that they found two bodies near their home and that militants were to blame.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the 'Army of the Righteous', seeks to introduce an Islamic state in South Asia and to "liberate" Muslims in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
India has identified the group as the alleged masterminds behind the the 2008 terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai that killed 166 people.
The killings of Arifa and Akthar show that militant attacks also include targetting devoted minority Christians, Ciniraj suggested.
The girls' involvement in Bible reading was among several projects of mission group Salem Voice Ministries (SVM), which supports evangelism and aid among Muslims and Hindus in India, including through underground house churches in Muslim-majority Kashmir.
BELIEVERS IN FEAR
After last week's killings, however, local "believers are totally in fear," added Ciniraj, who founded SVM with her husband, Indian pastor Paul Ciniraj, a former Muslim.
The January 31 attack was believed to be the first incident of civilian killings by militants in the Kashmir valley, this year. The violence also added to other difficulties of Christians in Kashmir valley, as they suffered of diseases, explained Mercey Ciniraj to BosNewsLife.
"Since the last one and half months we all are fed up with different types of sickness. Few days we suffered with reddish eyes one by one [and] after that we were attacked with viral fever too," she said, adding that local believers asked for prayers.
Despite their concerns, local Christian workers plan to continue preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ who they believe gives eternal life to everyone who believes in Him, Ciniray stressed. "By God's grace now we recovered [of illnesses] and are fully active with the underground church ministries and reaching the Gospel at any cost who never have a chance to hear it."