INDIA: Churches in appeal for Christians targeted in Quran protests

September 14, 2010

Churches in India are asking for support after Christian institutions became the target of violent protests linked to the reported desecration of a copy of the Quran in the United States.

At least 16 people were killed and more than 60 injured in clashes on Sept. 13 with security personnel in India-ruled Kashmir.

Most of those people were killed after police opened fire to quell violent mobs, S. S. Kapur, the chief secretary, or highest official, of Jammu and Kashmir state, told media. Kapur said the crowds had come out on to the streets after a "foreign" television station had reported that a copy of the Quran had been desecrated in the United States.

Tension had been rising in Muslim-majority Kashmir after the announcement by the Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of a tiny church in Florida, of plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Jones abandoned the plans after an outpouring of criticism reaching to U.S. President Barack Obama. The latest violence was sparked by a report on an Iranian television station that allegedly showed a protester in the United States tearing pages out of a Quran.

Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of the Amritsar diocese of the Church of North India told ENInews that two protesters were killed after security forces opened fire at the gate of the CNI hospital at Anantnag when a mob tried to storm it.

On Sept. 13, the Church of North India's Tyndale Biscoe School near the tourist resort of Gulmarg in the Kashmir valley was torched. Later the Roman Catholic Good Shepherd high school at Pulwama was also set on fire.

The previous day, police had to enforce a curfew in Malerkotla town in India's northern Punjab state which neighbors Kashmir, after a mob said to be made up of Muslims set fire to a church belonging to the CNI.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, said his church is "deeply saddened by the disrespectful act towards the holy Quran" in the United States. "I am also concerned about the violent incidents that have taken place in the country," Gracias told ENInews Sept. 14.

"Our churches and schools are attacked for no fault of ours," said Alwan Masih, general secretary of the CNI synod, in a Sept. 14 statement. "We request the members of all religious faiths to stand with us to condemn this fundamentalist attack on our churches and institutions by individuals who do not represent any faith community in the world."

Masih also noted that the CNI had denounced the plans of the Florida church to burn the Qurans as "the most cowardly act any one individual or an organization can think of."

Deploring the subsequent report of a Quran profanation in the United States and the violent protests in India, the All India Christian Council said there should be "no place in a civilized country for ... desecration and wilful hurting of religious sentiments of people."

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