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Compass Direct (04/07/06) – Pastor Paul Ciniraj Mohammed, a Christian convert from Islam, is still recovering from what he believes was a murder attempt in Kottayam district, in the southern state of Kerala, on March 16.

Ciniraj is the head of Salem Voice Ministries, which runs orphanages, village schools and adult literacy centers in Kerala state. He also runs a church in another district, Thiruvananthapuram, popularly known as Trivandrum .

On March 16, Ciniraj was riding his motorbike past the office of the district collector in Kottayam when a motorized rickshaw rammed into him, fracturing his knee.

When Ciniraj filed a complaint at the Kottayam police station, police said they suspected the accident was an attempt to murder him. Ciniraj was hospitalized as a medical-legal case, but weeks later the police had not visited him nor arrested the driver of the rickshaw.

Ciniraj said he felt the police were not taking the case seriously.

The attempt came almost a year after Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down a prayer hall and attacked two members of a church plant in Kottayam district. (See Compass Direct, “Villagers Beat Christians, Burn Down Prayer Hall,” April 15, 2005.)

Family Threatened

Three days after the incident, while Ciniraj was still in the hospital, two men carrying weapons attempted to break into his house, apparently intending to attack his family.

“They came to my house at Devalogam, in Kottayam, on March 19, while my wife and two other children were sleeping inside,” said Ciniraj. A third child was visiting Ciniraj at the hospital.

The pastor’s wife, Mercy Ciniraj, woke suddenly at about 2:40 a.m. after hearing a strange noise outside the house. When she looked through a window, she saw two men with weapons standing at the front door.

When she tried to call the police, however, she discovered the telephone line had been cut. Terrified, she started shouting the name of Jesus. The noise startled neighbors, and lights were switched on. When the intruders realized this, they jumped back over the gate and fled.

Mercy Ciniraj informed the police, but at press time officers had apparently not visited the house to record details of the incident.

Ciniraj said he had suffered attacks several times over the past two years because of his evangelistic work among Hindus and Muslims.

In early November 2005, he organized a public convention in Kottayam district. A few Hindu extremists intruded and created a disturbance, asking Ciniraj and others present why they had organized the convention.

Kerala state has one of the highest concentrations of Christians in India , at 19 percent. The majority of these Christians, however, belong to traditional churches that do not approve of evangelism among the other major religious groups.

Muslims account for 23 percent of the population in Kerala, and Hindus 57 percent.