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Islamic Extremist Threatens Christian Convert

December 18 (Compass Direct News) – A caller identifying himself as an Islamic terrorist has threatened to kill a Christian convert from Islam in the southern state of Kerala.

Pastor Paul Ciniraj Mohammed, head of Salem Voice Ministries (SVM) in Kottayam district, has already survived one suspected murder attempt.

The extremist phoned Ciniraj on Thursday (December 14) and told him to “start counting your days, as we will kill you in a few days’ time.”

“He spoke to me in a very loud voice and said he was from an Islamist terrorist group,” Ciniraj told Compass.

Ciniraj took the threat seriously because the caller also mentioned Bashir Tantray, a 50-year-old engineer and volunteer with several Christian organizations who was killed, reportedly by Islamic militants, on a busy road in Barmullah district in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir on November 21. (See Compass Direct News, “Militants Kill Prominent Christian Worker in India,” November 21.)

“Our local newspapers did not report on Tantray’s killing, so nobody – even most Christians – knows about it here,” Ciniraj explained. “This means the caller could actually be from the group that killed Tantray.”

SVM runs a number of orphanages, village schools and adult literacy classes in the state.

Anxiety at Home

Ciniraj said he did not immediately report the threat to police as he did not want his family to know about it or be concerned.

“However, my wife and children heard me praying about it and got very scared,” Ciniraj said. “Especially my youngest son, 12-year-old Lesley. He has been dreaming that someone is trying to kill me.”

Since learning of the threat, Lesley has refused to sleep alone.

“My other two children, Besly and Hepzy, are also scared seeing Lesley bursting into tears several times a day,” he added.

Ciniraj said he would soon report the threat to police.

Earlier Attacks

Earlier this year, on March 16, men on a motorized rickshaw deliberately rammed into Ciniraj while he was out riding his motorbike, fracturing his knee. When Ciniraj filed a complaint at the Kottayam police station, police said they suspected the incident was a failed murder attempt. (See Compass Direct News, “Pastor Survives Suspected Murder Attempt in Kerala, India,” April 7.)

Three days later, while Ciniraj was still recovering in the hospital, two men carrying weapons attempted to break into his house.

Ciniraj’s wife and two of their children were asleep in the house at the time, while Lesley was staying overnight with his father at the hospital. 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, she discovered that the telephone line had been cut. Terrified, she started shouting the name of Jesus. The noise startled neighbors, who switched on their lights. The intruders quickly jumped back over the gate and fled.

The attack came almost a year after Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down Ciniraj’s prayer hall in Trivandrum and attacked his associate following a baptism ceremony on April 1, 2005. Ciniraj was also attacked when he visited the damaged prayer hall on April 3. (See Compass Direct News, “Villagers Beat Christians, Burn Down Prayer Hall,” April 15, 2005.)

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.

Assaults Countrywide

Nationwide, the All India Christian Council reported on December 12 that at least 16 confirmed incidents of Christian persecution took place in November.

Of the 16 incidents, seven took place in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and two in Karnataka, another southern state. Two incidents were confirmed in northern Jammu and Kashmir state, and at least one incident was confirmed in Gujarat (west India), Bihar and Assam (east India), Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (north India).