Tuesday, 18 November 2003

Srinagar (Fides Service) – There is fear among Christians in Kashmir after grenade was launched on 15 November at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Pulwama, 35 km from Srinagar, in Kashmir. Three office staff and a security guard were injured in the blast. Pupils inside the school building attending lessons escaped unharmed. Signals of a possible attack were given the day before when guns were fired at the school from a passing bus.
The attack has caused unrest and concern in the local Church which fears a fresh upsurge of terrorism against Christians and Christian institutions. Local sources told Fides that in April fundamentalist Muslims launched a ‘holy war’ against Christian against mission schools accused of converting people by force. The same sources do not exclude the possibility of more attacks in the growing atmosphere of terror after attacks in Turkey and Iraq.
The Catholic community in Kashmir has strongly condemned the attack on the school denouncing local authorities for keeping silent about serious acts of intimidation against Christians.
Good Shepherd Catholic School in Pulwama is renowned for its high quality education given to pupils of all religions. In September the first minister of Jammu-Kashmir state, Mufti Mohammad Syeed lauded Catholic schools for offering excellent education regardless of religious beliefs and so “healing divisions among the people” offering “the best possible instruction to children of all social classes and religions”, and also for service to the poor, orphans and excluded categories of people.
The general situation of insecurity in the region, fought over for 50 years by India and Pakistan, has hitherto affected mainly Hindus and Muslims while the Christian communities were not involved in the climate of violence
Kashmir has a population of 9 million, of whom about 12,000 are Catholics Kashmir served by 41 priests, assisted by 160 women religious and about 20 catechists. The local Church is involved mainly in education.(PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/11/2003 lines 35 words 361)

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