jump to navigation

Stay ordered in Kashmir blasphemy case: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2012 p 7. February 23, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Persecution.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A high court justice in Kashmir has ordered a stay of proceedings in the case of the Rev. C.M. Khanna on charges that his baptism of Muslim converts had caused a breach of the peace and aggravated religious tensions in the Northern Indian state.

On 28 Oct 2010 the Anglican priest was called before a Sharia court to answer charges of blasphemy. The summons came in the wake of the publication on the internet of a mobile phone video of a baptismal service Mr. Khanna conducted for seven Muslim men. The baptismal liturgy’s call to renounce Satan and all his works and make amendment for one’s past life was “blasphemous,” local mullahs had charged.

On 19 Nov, police arrested Mr. Khanna and charged him with “fomenting communal strife.”  The All India Christian Council denounced the arrest, noting the Sharia Court had no legal authority in India and accused the police of arresting the priest in order to forestall an anti-government rising by Muslim extremists.  No member of the Kashmir bar would appear in court on Mr. Khanna’s behalf and a number of attorneys called for the state to refuse him bail.

However, bail was granted on 1 December after outside counsel travelled to Srinigar to defend Mr. Khanna before the state court.

On 11 February 2012, Justice J.P Singh of Jammu and Kashmir High Court issued an order staying legal proceedings and directed the Director General of Police and the Home Office to answer Mr. Khanna’s petition that his arrest was unlawful.

According to the petition filed with the court, on 26 Oct Mr. Khanna was summoned to appear before the Sharia Court to answer charges of blasphemy on 28 Oct.  The following day the police began a formal investigation of Mr. Khanna on charges of disturbing the peace – a charge, he noted that was a cloak for the blasphemy charge brought by Muslim leaders.

Mr. Khanna was summoned a second time by the Sharia Court and appeared on 11 Nov before 25 to 30 Muslim clerics.  “The atmosphere in the said proceedings was so surcharged that everybody was shouting insults and false accusations against the petitioner. These proceedings were highlighted almost in every local newspaper in the [Kashmir] Valley,” the petition noted.

It was in the wake of these proceedings that the police arrested Mr. Khanna for fomenting religious strife on 19 Nov, he argued.  He was subsequently kept at a police station “under illegal detention” until he was bailed.

In his petition, Mr. Khanna noted that the Sharia Court had issued a Fatwa on 19 January that ordered his “life ban” on returning to Kashmir.  He asked the court to dismiss the criminal proceedings as no prima-facie case had been presented by the police that he had violated any civil law.  Sharia law, his attorneys argued, should not be empowered by a secular state through the support of the government.

Kashmir priest arrested for baptising Muslims: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2011 p 7. November 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Evangelism, Persecution.
Tags: , , , ,
comments closed

Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of Amritsar

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A priest has been arrested in the Indian state of Kashmir and charged with promoting religious enmity and outraging religious feelings after he baptised 15 Muslim young men who had converted to Christianity.

The Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, rector of All Saints Church in Srinigar in the Church of North India’s Diocese of Amritsar was jailed on 19 Nov 2011 by police following complaints laid against him by a local Muslim leader.

While India does not have a law forbidding religious conversions, a police official told the Hindustan Times Mr. Khanna had been booked for having violated laws against offering “allurements” to converts and for breaching the peace by having baptised the young Muslims.

The Bishop in Amritsar, the Rt. Rev. Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy denied claims lodged against Mr. Khanna.  The “allegations were fabricated and no material benefits were offered to anyone desirous of baptism,” he said, according to the website Christian Today.

“The Muslim youths were coming to Church for more than one year and they 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.

The Christian Messenger reported that Mr. Khanna said he had not proselytized the young men, but would not turn away those who wanted to know more.  “It is my responsibility to preach God’s Word. I can’t refuse anyone. The house of God is open for all.”

According to Indian press accounts the 15 young men had been attending services at the church for some months.  When they asked to be permitted to receive Holy Communion, Mr. Khanna said that they would have to undergo a course of instruction and be baptized.  The young men agreed and were received into the church after they completed their catechetical training.

After a film of the baptism ceremony appeared on YouTube, the local Sharia court – which has no civil or criminal jurisdiction over non-Muslims – summoned Mr. Khanna to appear to answer charges that he had forcibly converted the young men.   According to AsiaNews, witnesses claim that police beat the converts to make them give evidence against the pastor.

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali stated that he knew Mr. Khanna “and he is a respected parish priest of the Church of North India who would never use underhand methods to evangelise.”

“I am astonished that such a person can be arrested by an India committed to religious freedom and democracy. I call not only for his immediate and unconditional release but also for protection for him and his family. Let us pray that freedom and justice will prevail in Kashmir for everyone: Muslim, Christian and Hindu,” Bishop Nazir-Ali said.