By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- Foreign and Indian Christians are fleeing India's troubled Kashmir Valley after an Islamic court ordered the expulsion of Christian leaders and directed the state government to monitor Christian missionary schools in the area, trial observers said Thursday, January 19.
Among those being expelled were Dutch Catholic missionary Jim Borst, Reverend Chander Mani Khanna of All Saints Church in the area's summer capital Srinagar and Christian worker Gayoor Messah. The court said the three men were guilty of “luring the valley Muslims to Christianity.”
The three had already left the region before the ruling was published Thursday, January 19, due to rising tensions, Indian media reported.
Two other Christian clergymen also faced expulsion, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said, but their names were not not immediately known.
The ruling by the 'Sharia', or Islamic law court, is not recognized by the Indian government, but the court wields huge influence in the heavily Muslim region.
"Khanna and his associates have been found guilty of spreading communal disaffection and were involved in immoral activities," said Nasir-ul-Islam, the deputy grand mufti of Jammu and Kashmir state, to which the Valley belongs. "They are ordered to be expelled from the state," he added in a statement distributed by PTI.
The court said it had conducted a trial after a video clip showed Khanna baptizing seven Muslim youths at a church here last year. Following "a public outcry", the pastor was detained by police and is currently out on bail, PTI reported.
It also issued a decree, or "fatwa", demanding that the state government will monitor activities of especially local Christian missionary schools and force them to teach Islam. "Since the majority of students in these schools are Muslims, Islamic studies should also be included in the curriculum," the court said. It also called for the inclusion of local scholars and educationists in the governing bodies of these schools, PTI reported.
Additionally Nasir-ul-Islam reportedly said an investigation was underway against Parvez Samuel Kaul, the principal of a local Christian missionary school. It further fueled tensions in the region, with Christians saying they were being forced to flee with their wive and children amid reports of a door-do-door campaign by Muslim hard-liners aimed at bringing Christian converts "back to Islam".
The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), a major advocacy group, said in published remarks he was concerned about the situation. "This [Sharia court] verdict is illegal, because [it] has no authority in our country. The Supreme Court should take action against members of this Shariah body. "
The tensions in the Kashmir Valley is among the latest reported threats facing the Christian minority in India, where several attacks targeting Christians and churches have been reported in recent weeks.