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Christians under fear in Jammu and Kashmir

London: February 9, 2018. (PCP) An Indian Pastor who narrowly escaped with his life after Sehal Christ Church (linked to Friends Missionary Prayer Band) was subjected to an arson attack (click here) has spoken out against the ongoing community tension and hatred that Christians in Jammu Kashmir have been facing since the incident.

Pastor Jaggar Singh had to flee his home in the district of Sehal last month after zealots began a search for him with intent to lynch him for alleged forced conversions. There has always been great suspicion and animosity for his rapidly growing church which had over 70 members from several local villages. Many of the parishioners would walk miles to hear the word of God at services said to be filled with the spirit of God.

However, the continued strength and growth of the church became increasingly irksome to Bajran Dal a local Hindu nationalist group, the animosity reached a peak and turned to violence when one of his parishioners tried to bury his wife's body in a Christian manner.

Rinkhu Kumar converted to Christianity a few years ago and his wife Seema Devi grew closer to God and converted a while later inspired by the faith of her husband. However the parents felt great disgust at her conversion and shunned her for the 'dishonour' she brought to her family. Her isolation was reciprocated by the entirety of her former community. Sadly Seema fell ill with a fatal condition and finally succumbed to her illnesses. Despite having nothing to do with Seema's life for a good few years the family of Seema spurred on by local Hindu fundamentalists exhumed the body of Seema and burnt it before the church, setting ablaze the church for good measure and beating the parishioners of whom seven were arrested including Rinkhu.

The next day six of the men were released but Rinkhu is still behind bars despite not having been charged with anything yet. BACA is assisting with the release of Rinkhu and it is hoped that he will be released in the next few days. We will keep you posted. Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Asian Christian Association, said: "An innocent man is being illegally detained in prison by a Police force that is corrupt and biased against the Christian minority. The continued incarceration of Rinkhu in this despicable manner should be questioned by the UN and other agents of International law, especially when you consider India is signatory to the UN Human Richts Act.

"Under the Narendra Modi regime life for Christians and other minorities becomes increasingly untenable in India, only swift action can prevent a huge surge of asylum seekers from the nation adding to the huge refugee crises that is consuming global politics and international aid.

"It is in the best interests for all western nations to intervene now before it is too late the continued ignorance of the matter in favour of realpolitick has failed everywhere else - its time for a policy change!"

After the attack Christians were threatened never to return to the church and some members of the church have been forced to reconvert to Hindusim under duress. The church remains closed and their are no immediate plans to reintroduce the church due to the community angst against the church and local Christians.

Pastor Singh became a focus point for the violence and the extremist group Bakran Dal who rallied a mob and attacked Sehal Christ Church, for days after the event they sought the terrified pastor, who was forced to hide in a local wood to escape the violent retribution daily mobs wished to enact upon him.

BACA had planned to help him escape to a safe house but Pastor Singh asked us to wait till a panchayat (local meeting of elders) was held on 4th February. Pastor Singh was hoping that the Christian advocates representing him could help assuage the animosity towards him, however at the meeting the elders placed a bounty of 500,000 rupees 5580 for him to be brought to the council of elders to receive a punishment. Pastor Singh, spoke about his life of late, he said: "It has been a debilitating life I have suffered since the attack on our church. I have been forced to hide in unsafe places and have been close to being caught several times and if found due to the weakness in my leg I would not have been able to run away. My wife and I cry out to God every night and he has answered our prayers with this help from the BACA.

"I have a young daughter who has slept little since the attack she has recurring nightmares, this is the work of the evil one and we know only prayers can save us, so we will continue to pray and ask for you all to pray for us as well.

"I will not be broken because I know God is with me."

In fear of his life Pastor Singh fled for his life and was placed in a BACA safe house over 500km away from Jammu Kashmir while he decides on his future. The total cost for maintaining Pastor Singh is 73 per month which includes for his food and other expenses and lodgings. We are seeking assistance with maintaining him in this secure environment. If you would like to donate towards helping this man of God please click (here). Due to Pastor Singh suffering from Polio his future career options are limited so we cannot say how long he will need to be sponsored, however it is our aim to get him back into employment to enable him to reestablish his life.

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