NEW DELHI, India, JULY 20, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The state of Jammu and Kashmir withdrew an expulsion order against a Dutch Catholic missionary widely regarded for his work as an educator and helper of India’s poor.
The state government last April ordered Mill Hill Father Jim Borst to be expelled because of denunciations by Muslim extremists. They accuse Catholic schools and institutes of promoting a campaign of conversions “disguised” as educational service.
Father Borst worked in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, from 1963 to 1975. He then went to the state of Bihar, where he stayed until 1993, when he returned to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Oxford-educated missionary is president of two Catholic schools in Srinagar that are known for their high quality.
In fact, a few months ago, Mohammed Sayyed, the prime minister of the state, spoke publicly of the high quality of education imparted in the Catholic schools and institutes administered by the missionaries.
Sayyed highlighted their capacity “to heal wounds among the population,” providing “the best education possible to persons of all social classes and religions.” In particular, he praised the service given to the poor, the orphans and the marginalized in Kashmir.
Father Borst had been refused an extension of his visa. But after an investigation authorities decided that the accusations against him were unfounded, the Vatican agency Fides reported Monday. The priest has been allowed to stay in the state to continue his pastoral service and teaching.
After protests by the Catholic community and other supporters of Father Borst, the state of Jammu and Kashmir decided to extend the missionary’s stay.
Mill Hill missionaries have been pioneers in the field of education in Kashmir, where the Catholic community is made up of just over 12,000 faithful, 41 priests, 160 nuns and 20 catechists. About 70% of the state’s 12 million people are Muslim.