SRINAGAR: The oldest church in Srinagar, St Lukes at Buchwara no more witnesses the buzz on Christmas it once was known for in the Valley. Until the 1990s, the gates of the church were open and dozens of members from Christian community would hold regular prayers and the annual Christmas would draw a huge throng. But the marvellous stone and brick masonry structure has fallen desolate now, bereft of worshippers.
The foundation stone erected by Dr Earnest and Dr Arthur Neve, “To The Glory of God” and “As A Witness To Kashmir” was dedicated by The Bishop of Lahore on 12 September 1896.
But the closure of the church in the wake of emergence of militancy has prompted the members of Christian community (Protestant members) to hold prayers in the highly-secured Church Lane at Sonwar. But renovation works started by the government some time ago have renewed their hopes that the oldest place of worship will again be thrown open for prayers.
“The government has taken a good step by starting reconstruction of the church. It is a very happy moment for the Christian community. We want the renovations to complete as soon as possible so that we can visit and pray there again,” a senior member pleading anonymity at All Saint’s Church in Srinagar told Kashmir Reader.
Now with the renovation underway, members of Christian community like Peter are hopeful they will celebrate Christmas at the Church next year.
Locals in the Buchwara neighbourhood recall that daily prayers were held at the church. But for close to three decades, no prayers are being held now, said Mohammad Ayoub Sofi, a 55-year-old resident of Buchwara area of Dalgate. He said he would visit the Church along with his friends during childhood.
An official of the Tourism department, which is supervising the restoration works at the church, said they will throw open the gates of the church once again after the construction work is complete.
By NAVEED AHMAD NAJAR