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On a bright Sunday morning, Riaz Ahmed Dhobi walks toward All Saints Church in Srinagar, a city of 750,000 in Kashmir, the mountainous border region bloodied by conflicts between India and Pakistan. "I am interested in this religion," says the 30-year-old Muslim, a student at Kashmir University. "I hate violence. I hate fundamentalists in Islam. I come here to seek peace."

In recent months, according to Christian sources inside the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir, thousands of mostly young Kashmiri Muslims, disillusioned by Islam, are seeking new ways to resolve Muslim-Hindu violence.

"You will find thousands of people interested in Christianity, but due to fear they can't come out openly, can't accept," says Yonathan Paljor, 77, of All Saints Church, part of the Church of North India, formed in 1970 by major Protestant churches. "They are threatened for life and socially boycotted."

Firing line


The danger hits close to home. "Our church building and pastoral house were burned twice," Paljor says. "Both times we had to run away and mix with the mob to save our lives. A Christian lady's house was also burned." A Gospel for Asia (GFA) Bible school student named Neeraj B. was murdered three months ago; local Christians believe Muslim radicals committed the murder.

"Although the senior GFA leader who oversees the Kashmir region had given permission to all of our missionaries and students to leave the area," GFA reports, "47 of them chose to stay behind and be a witness for the Lord to those who are fleeing the potential war zone. Even now they are scattered along the border areas of Kashmir, preaching the gospel to the refugees and assisting them in practical ways."

The Indian-controlled portion (Jammu and Kashmir state) is the ...

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September 9, 2002

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