Rev Khanna was framed, media reports are wrong: CNI Bishop

Published 23 November 2011  |  
Denying reports that Rev CM Khanna had confessed of converting Muslim youths by inducement, the head of the Amritsar Diocese, Bishop PK Samantaroy, on Tuesday said the Kashmir pastor was framed and sent to prison on flimsy charges.

On Saturday, the police in Srinagar arrested Rev Khanna for his alleged involvement in "forceful conversions" in the Valley. The pastor was picked up from his residence on the pretext of meeting the IG Police. No written communication concerning the charges levelled was given.

Speaking candidly on the issue, Bishop Samantaroy, on Tuesday said "The arrest of Rev Khanna was shocking and humiliating. He was clearly framed and he had not confessed to any person that he was involved in conversions by force or allurement."

"These converts have been coming to the All Saints Church in Srinagar for more than one year. Even I have visited the Church on several occasions and seen the same group of men who accused the pastor of giving them money for converting," said Bishop Samantaroy.

"Rev Khanna has been pastoring in the area for more than 7 years. And these converts had approached the pastor for baptism by their own freewill. In such cases, the Church cannot deny baptism."

On whether the media reports that Rev Khanna had admitted of having offered money was true, Samantaroy, who is also the new deputy moderator of the Church of North India, said the pastor did truthfully admit that he had baptised the converts, but not of having offered money.

"I have spoken to the pastor not once but several times. He has only confessed of giving baptism, the rest are all concocted. Now that the Bar Association of Kashmir has warned its members against representing Rev Khanna, we have arranged an advocate and are closely watching the case. It is a very sensitive matter. We are exploring different possibilities. "

The head of the Sharia Court in Kashmir, Mufti Mohd Bashiruddin, earlier sought an explanation of the pastor in front of 15 other Ulemas. Rev Khanna decided to appear before the Sharia Court on Nov. 17 to clarify his position though this court had no legal validity.

"The law and order situation can change any time in the Valley. The Sharia Court has no locus standi practically, but they are the ones who rule. We have to be very careful. The issue has also put at risk the lives of other local Christians in the state," said Bishop Samantaroy.

Several protests across the Muslim state erupted last week after the grand mufti claimed to possess a video that showed Rev Khanna urging young Kashmiri Muslims to embrace Christianity. The video only shows Rev Khanna giving baptism, but not offering money or forcing conversion as alleged.

Rev Khanna has stated in his own words, "The Kashmiri youths were coming to the Church since past one year. They wanted to participate in the Holy Communion like rest of the Christians. I explained they are not allowed to do without undergoing water baptism."

"They insisted me to baptise them. I am a priest and I cannot deny them this right. Someone later recorded the baptism ritual through a mobile and published it on the YouTube. This was done with a provocative intention to create religious violence," he added.

Appealing to Christians to pray for the release of Rev Khanna, Samantaroy said the "whole Christian community feels humiliated because a religious leader like Rev Khanna has been treated in a manner so undignified. The charges of forcible conversion are totally baseless and untrue."

"The Church has always served the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the areas of education and health care. It is unfortunate that the long sacrificial ministry of the Church has not been considered while arresting Rev Khanna for allegedly causing communal disharmony," he said.

"I feel that the Church has to now raise its voice of protest against such discriminatory action of the Jammu and Kashmir administration. Support should be mobilised to exert pressure on the state and central governments to release Rev Khanna immediately."

Meanwhile, it is being reported that the state police is making a list of churches and Christian organisations in the state, to subsequently scrutinise their activities. The list also includes schools and institutions run by Christians.

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