Christians lament killing of convert from Islam

world | Dec 01, 2006 | By ENI 

Christian groups in India are mourning the killing of a prominent Christian worker who had converted from Islam and was shot dead at a bus stop in front of his home in the state Kashmir.

The Global Council of Indian Christians has demanded that the Indian federal police fully investigate the killing of the slain man, who worked in his spare time as the church group's Kashmir coordinator.

Bashir Tantray, who was aged 50, was shot in Mamoosa on 21 November in the Kashmir region. People close to him said he was gunned down by motor-cycle borne Islamic militants.

The Christian council said that "with the collusion of state officials", Tantray was buried according to Islamic rites "in an unseemly hurry". It said, even his four children who were studying in boarding schools outside the state were denied "an opportunity to see his body".

The council said: "This is totally unwarranted and unacceptable, as it was public knowledge that he had been a Christian for almost two decades."

Sajan K. George, the council's convenor told Ecumenical News International that Tantray, who was employed by the state government, had been under pressure from Islamicist groups to reconvert to Islam and had even escaped an attempt on his life three years ago.

The ecumenical All India Christian Council (AICC) in a statement on 27 November said that the assassination of the Christian convert was "a wake up call to church, community and the Indian Government".

Missionaries arrived in the Kashmir valley more than 100 years ago, but there are only a few thousand Christians among Kashmir state's 10 million people, as conversions to other faiths in the Muslim-majority region remain a very sensitive issue.

The AICC said that victims of violence in Kashmir state belong to all faiths, including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. Earlier in the month the AICC had reported that in other parts of India, Christians in "tribal communities" face intense pressure to convert to Hinduism.

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