Mir Waiz Umer Farooq

At the peak of controversy triggered by Wikileaks, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq took off and spent many weeks aboard. Back home, he issued intermittent statements on issues but stayed, by and large, silent. Last week, however, he arranged a major event.

Off the media glare, Mirwaiz summoned almost all the major leaders of the Christian community in Kashmir and spent a few hours with them at his Nigeen mansion. The backdrop to the meeting was clear. Within days after a video was posted on Facebook showing boys and girls being baptized by Reverend Khanna in the heart of Srinagar, there were apprehensions of a backlash. Police acted swiftly, identified all the converts and arrested them. But the matter did not end there.

Instead of holding “trails” and threatening action, Mirwaiz took a cool decision. A product of a Christian missionary school, Umer invited all of them to his home to discuss the issue. And most of them obliged him. According to Shahid-ul-Islam who coordinated the exercise, those who were present included Principal Burn Hall School, Principal Saint Joseph School Baramulla, Father Matthew of MA Road Church and Father Khanna of Church Lane Church. Prominent absentees included Tyndale Biscoe School Principal Parvez Samuel Koul, principal Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School and Father Jim Bhorst and his colleague GayurMesih. Reportedly, Mirwaiz has told the invitees that Christians have made a lot of contribution to the society in Kashmir on health and education front. And both the communities have co-existed in Kashmir for many centuries without any friction. But, Mirwaiz, according to Shahid, has made it clear that the reports about conversions are going to waste the entire contribution. He has suggested them not to take this route any longer and understand the clear difference between, for instance, “Kerela and Kashmir”.

The invitees have responded to the debate and forwarded their viewpoint. Some of them were clear in suggesting that that they usually do not knock at the doors of the people and the fact is vice versa. They have listed many issues in the meeting. “All these issues are supposed to be discussed in the Ulema Council that is meeting on November 21,” Shahid said.

Though the conversions were never a secret in Kashmir, the video was the first major proof. It was in this backdrop that the Christian community leaders have been counseled by police and lot of many saner elements that they should skip preaching Christianity in Kashmir which is unpredictably sensitive and could trigger a crisis, any time. It remains to be seen how serious the dollar rich minority will take the advice.

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