Prayers held on Christmas after 30 years in Srinagar Church

Local Muslims greeted Christian brethren on Christmas and distributed sweets among them

Photo courtesy: Arjumand Wani
Photo courtesy: Arjumand Wani

Gulzar Bhat

On the foothills of Shankaracharya hillock in Srinagar's Dal Gate area, the 125-year-old St Luke’s Church in Srinagar is bedecked with festoons. A few workers could be seen giving finishing touches to the renovation work, which has been going on since April.

Although the church was thrown open on Thursday after remaining shut for a good 30 years, the refurbishment work may take a couple of more days.

On the eve of Christmas, the small community of Christians decorated the church with lights and offered prayers.

"We are really happy to see this Church springing to life again," said a local resident from the majority Muslim community.

He said that the Muslim community not only greeted their Christian brethren on the eve of Christmas but also distributed sweets among them.

"When the minorities elsewhere in the country are being attacked for their religious identity, the harmony and love exuded by this place is overwhelming", he said.

Javed Ahmad, another local, said that in the Valley there was no room for communal forces.

"Kashmir has always embraced people from all faiths and will continue to do it," Ahmad added.

The Church was built in 1896 and was closed after the militancy broke out in the Valley.

A sample of Gothic architecture with magnificent wood and brickwork, the church building has suffered some damage to its rooftop, ceiling and altar due to prolonged closure.

Prayers held on Christmas after 30 years in Srinagar Church

"We fixed the ceiling, changed rooftop and did tile work," said Naseer Ahmad, a master mason.

He said that they had also repaired its points.

"Around 10 to 15 masons along with 40 labourers have been working for the last many months on the building,” said Ahmad.

He said that the small left-over work might take one or two more day.

The refurbishment work was taken up by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department.

"The work has been taken up under the Smart City Project," said Mohammad Afzal, who supervises the work.

Afzal said that the renovation work went spasmodically during the month of April and May due to the Covid lockdowns.

Ahead of the Christmas, the Church was virtually reopened for the worshippers by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

The Christen population in Jammu and Kashmir, as per 2011 data, stands at 5361.

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Published: 27 Dec 2021, 8:23 AM