February 3, 2012
A self-styled sharia (Islamic law) court in India recently expelled three pastors from Kashmir state on allegations of "forced conversions," and is continuing efforts to silence the gospel in the area, according to Mission Network News. The sharia court is not a government court, but "simply a group of Muslim clerics who set themselves up and say, 'We will dictate what happens because Kashmir is Muslim,'" said David Bast of Words of Hope. The Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against the Christian leaders in January for "luring the Valley's Muslims to Christianity" after videos surfaced of a pastor baptizing Kashmiri Muslim youth. The pastor, facing death threats, was arrested soon afterwards, along with two other Christian workers accused of being accomplices. Since the incident, "Christian ministry has shut down in Kashmir ... and [Christians] have had to flee for their lives," Bast said. The area's last remaining above-ground church has since disappeared, and the sharia court has also called on the government to take over the management of missionary schools. Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state; Muslims make up 67 percent of the population and 97 percent of the Kashmir Valley.