INDIA - An “unreasonable and arbitrary” measure: missionary head master of two Catholic schools expelled from Kashmir

Wednesday, 5 May 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - An “unreasonable and arbitrary” measure ” was the comment of India’s Global Christian Council with regard to an order of expulsion issued by the Foreign Citizen’s Registry Office in Srinagar, Summer capital of Kashmir, addressed to Father Jim Borst, a Dutch Mill Hill Missionary who has devoted 40 years of his life to educating and serving the poor in the travailed region of Kashmir, disputed by India and Pakistan.
The authorities refused to renew Father Borst residence permit which expired in November 2003 and gave him a week to leave the country. In defence of the Missionary, the Global Christian Council appealed to the President of India to take steps to withdraw the order of expulsion and to allow the priest to continue his service to the local people. “While the government is spending large sums of money to restore peace in Kashmir - the appeal reads - someone committed to working for peace and reconciliation in the whole state is expelled without reason, a good reward for service of unreserved self-giving...”
The “Jammu and Kashmir Catholic Sabha” association also condemned the treatment of the Missionary which it said “violates the human rights” of a person who is a local reference point for education and spirituality.
Father Borst, who came to India in 1963, is known for his work to promote education and harmony. Father Borst who has degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, is head master of two Catholic schools in Srinagar widely appreciated among the local people for the quality of education offered .
Recently Catholic commitment was lauded by the Chief Minister of Kashmir state, Mohammad Syeed who praised the high quality of education imparted in Catholic schools and the service offered in institutes run by missionaries for their capacity “to heal ill feelings among people”, offering “the best possible education to people of all social classes and religions” praising in particular service to the poor, orphans and outcasts in Kashmir, India and the rest of the world.
Father Borst worked in Jammu and Kashmir from 1963 to 1975, before being sent to work in Bihar until 1993, after which he was moved back to Jammu and Kashmir.
Mill Hill Missionaries were pioneers in education in Kashmir where there are only 12,000 Catholics, looked after by 41 priests, 160 nuns and 20 catechists, among a population of 12 million 70% Muslim and smaller communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Jammu-Srinagar, the second largest in India, covers three regions: the valley of Kashmir mainly Muslim; Ladakh mainly Buddhist and Jammu where Muslims and Hindus are equal in number. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/5/2004 lines 43 words 432)