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CULTURAL NEWS
EARTHQUAKE HITS GOSPEL FOR ASIA BIBLE COLLEGE
10 October 2005

A major earthquake hit India's northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, and early reports indicate that hundreds were killed. Buildings were shaken as far away as Delhi.

Among the structures damaged is a Gospel for Asia Bible college which was severely damaged Saturday morning by the earthquake that rocked the region of far northwestern India and northern Pakistan, killing thousands.

"We have received word that our Gospel for Asia Bible college in Jammu was severely damaged and is unusable. So far, reports indicate that all of our missionaries in the affected areas are safe, but we do not yet know the condition of our churches or believers there. I am in India and will be gathering more information as quickly as possible," said GFA President K.P.Yohannan. (Pictured: K.P. Yohannan in India -- picture by Dan Wooding).

"In the meantime, please pray for the survivors of this tragedy, for our missionaries and students, for the pastors and their people, and for those who will soon be ministering to the victims."

The 32 students who attend were warned not to return to the building since more aftershocks and tremors are expected. One wall in the Bible college, which is located in the Jammu region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, was cracked, and the building was deemed unsafe.

Other buildings in this same area collapsed from the force of the quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, and at least 400 houses were destroyed.

The most seriously affected area in India, Kashmir, is about a day’s journey from the Jammu Bible college. As of noon (Central Time) Saturday, India reported 230 people dead and 850 injured. All outgoing calls from India-administered Kashmir were down, which has cut off remote interior villages from the rest of the country. (Pictured: Inset shows location of Jammu and Kashmir region).

Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India with a Muslim majority (64 percent). The state includes two distinct regions: Kashmir in the north, with a strong Islamic presence dating to the 14th century; and Jammu in the south, where the Hindu minority is clustered. Kashmir became part of India at partition in 1947, but Pakistan quickly invaded and today controls the northern part of the territory.

So far, no relief organizations have been allowed to enter India-administered Kashmir, which is controlled by the military.

"As soon as there is an opening into these hardest-hit areas, we will be ready to send a couple hundred people to do relief work," said Yohannan.

"In the meantime, we will do what we can in Jammu."

Dr. Yohannan was in North India at the time of the quake, and was able to reach Bible college leaders in Jammu to determine the extent of the damage to the region.

"Gospel for Asia has missionaries scattered throughout this area," he explained. "As far as we can tell, all of them are safe, for which we praise God.”"

In addition to GFA’s missionary presence and Bible college in the state, the Gospel is also being proclaimed across both Indian and Pakistani territories through radio broadcasts in Urdu and Kashmiri.

"This is a great opportunity for the Body of Christ to demonstrate His love to the suffering and needy," said Yohannan, "and that's what we are choosing to do."

BACKGROUND ON JAMMU & KASHMIR

According to information posted to the GFA website Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in all of India with a Muslim majority (64 percent).

The website states: "As its name suggests, it consists of two distinct regions. In the north lies Kashmir, with a strong Islamic presence dating back to the 14th century. The Hindu minority, by contrast, is clustered in the region of Jammu and represents 32 percent of the population.

"The mighty Himalayan Mountains run through Jammu and Kashmir, which forms the northernmost tip of India. Its neighbors include Pakistan and China, and the main rivers are the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab."

For decades, the region of Kashmir has been at the heart of territorial disputes between India and Pakistan, the website says.

"Matters became even more complex in 1989, when Kashmiri militants began fighting for independence from India. It's estimated that since that time, more than thirty thousand people -- Kashmiri civilians and militants, and Indian and Pakistani soldiers -- have been killed. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced. Because of the political situation in Kashmir, the Indian government pays special attention to this area.

The site adds that before 1989, around 500,000 tourists flocked to the Vale of Kashmir annually from all over the world.

"This famous valley is surrounded on all sides by high mountains, whose slopes are covered with evergreen pines. It's referred to by some as 'Paradise on Earth.' "

The people of this state speak Urdu and Kashmiri, and 80 percent make their living in agriculture, raising rice, wheat and corn, the website says

"Woodcarving and making shawls and carpets are honored traditions in Kashmir. During the cold winters, people keep warm by carrying a kangri, or small earthen pot filled with burning coals, under their cloaks or shawls."

The site says that in 1990 there were a few thousand evangelical believers in Jammu and Kashmir, but that number doubled during the '90s. The need for Gospel workers is great, especially in war-torn Kashmir. Gospel for Asia missionaries regularly face spiritual attacks in the form of discouragement, illness and physical assaults from anti-Christian forces. Several other organizations are also spreading the Gospel in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gospel for Asia work in Jammu and Kashmir began in 2000 and includes: Personal evangelism, Church planting, a Bible school, Slum ministry and Radio broadcasts in Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri and Hindi.

Please Pray:
for the continued safety of Gospel for Asia missionaries and Bible college students in Jammu and Kashmir.
for the Lord to provide a structurally sound building where the Jammu Bible college can relocate.
for relief to quickly come to the Kashmir region, where it is so desperately needed.
for an increasing openness to the Gospel in this area.
that those who are now suffering so tragically will find hope and comfort in the message of Jesus’ love.


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