Date: May 14, 2013
By Joseph DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent with additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– A Christian-run children's home in India was struggling to resume operations Sunday, May 12, after being attacked by Muslim militants who assaulted its staff members and visitors and then damaged its property, a Christian aid group said.
Islamic leaders also tried to kill its director Neethi Rajan, a pastor, and attempted to kidnap children staying at the home in Srinagar, capital of the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir, said Barnabas Fund, which supports persecuted Christians.
When staff refused to release any children — as only a relative could remove them — a group of Muslims armed with rocks and sticks came and forced their way into the home by smashing its windows, Rajan said.
"Watching through the floor boards, we could see the men searching rooms. They tried to light the house on fire, but the police stopped them," he explained in published remarks.
The violence reportedly ended after police arrived and escorted the staff and children to safety.
The April 10 attack was prompted by Islamic cleric allegations the staff had been converting Muslim children to Christianity, according to rights investigators.
Barnabas Fund said the Muslims — who also killed a therapy dog in the attack — have threatened the building's landlord, who in turn informed the ecumenical group running the home to vacate the premises.
It was not immediately clear Sunday, May 12, when and if the home will be vacated, as police reportedly called the conversion accusations "baseless."
This wasn't an isolated incident.
In March, Muslim clerics already abducted two children from the home and spirited them away them to Islamic schools, Christians said.
Their situation remained unclear Sunday, May 12, as the children’s parents were reportedly threatened in the night by masked men.
Barnabas Fund said the incident was part of a wider pattern in India. "In general, Christians in India are most vulnerable to attack by Hindu nationalists, but in Kashmir, an area that is 99 percent Muslim, they face persecution by Islamic extremists," the group said.
Some Islamic groups have pressed for the introduction of strict Islamic law in the area. As part of that campaign, a 119-year-old church in Srinagar was reportedly torched by Islamists in May 2012.