2009-10-22 14:47:25

Jammu and Kashmir Church calls on government to protect its schools

(October 22, 2009) The Catholic Church of northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state has threatened to shut down its schools unless the state government stops interfering in the internal affairs of Church-run institutions and instead focuses on discrimination caused by a tense political situation. Trouble began after the staff of St Joseph Higher Secondary School in Baramulla protested against the administration favouring a specific party involving teachers. Church representatives complained about the district collector’s intervention in the school management, demanding the authorities rather investigate “anti-Christian and anti-religious” reasons behind the staff protest. The Church also submitted a memorandum to state chief minister, Omar Abdullah, demanding security for all its employees and institutions. Bishop Peter Celestine of Jammu-Srinagar, told AsiaNews that the “political situation is volatile and there is tension all around, even though the Church is not party to politics.” In the overwhelmingly Muslim state, where Christians form a tiny 0.0014 per cent, the Catholic Church runs several welfare and educational organisations. Its schools have about 7,000 students, mostly Muslims. Bishop Celestine complained that even though the Church has good relations with government authorities and Muslim religious leaders, there have been occasional attacks on Catholic institutions and personnel on the basis of fabricated news.

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