CALICUT, India, December 1 (Compass) - The Rev. K.K. Alavi, called "one of the bravest Christians in India," is the son of a staunch Islamic cleric.
Since receiving Christ at age 21, Rev. Alavi has endured at least four attempts on his life. Because of his ministry among Muslims, he receives numerous death threats by phone or by letter. Nearly every day he is assailed in Muslim speeches, newsletters and newspapers. Islamic groups have slapped 11 court cases on him, and last August a gunman shot at his house. He has also noticed two men stalking him lately.
Short with a thickly bearded face, the 53-year-old Alavi disarms others with a serene smile and a high singing voice.
"Last month, a few reporters came to me warning that killers were out to take me down," Alavi said. "All my life I have had threats from fundamentalists. So I wasn't surprised to hear this from reporters who were tipped off by a source with a radical, Indian Islamic group."
Though Muslim extremist organizations deny having any part in the attempts on his life, police officials and intelligence agencies have confirmed their role.
Machetes and Reproach
Higher-ranking police officials have asked Alavi to be cautious as extremist groups have issued warnings about attacks planned against him.
In Manjeri, a predominantly Muslim town in south India, Rev. Alavi pastors an independent Lutheran church, New Hope India Mission. He also oversees a literature program of tracts, booklets and study aides examining Islamic viewpoints on Christianity.
Many such works analyze Quranic arguments in favor of violence, contrasting them with Christianity's peaceful approaches. Rev. Alavi, a graduate from Concordia Seminary in Nagercoil, has written more than 20 books and tracts calling upon Muslims to understand the true essence of the teachings of Jesus.
In an Islamic area where Christianity is considered blasphemy, Rev. Alavi has led at least 50 Muslims - estimates range as high as 200 - to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Each year thousands of inquiries pour in. Working out of his home in Calicut, he meets curious and questioning Muslims asking about Jesus.
The threats on his life began in 1981. "A mob of Sunni Muslims stormed into my property looking for me with machetes," he said. "I ran all the way to the police station. Later I took refuge at the home of a Hindu attorney." The lawyer's family fed him and eventually provided an escort back to his home.
Rev. Alavi is not attacked merely for being a Christian, he said.
"I happened to be the first Muslim in a Muslim town who still converts Muslims in modern times," he said. "They saw clearly that I'm a sort of a bridge for many to walk to Jesus. They could never stand the idea. Hence I happen to be their foremost enemy."
The National Development Front (NDF), a major Indian Islamic group emerging in 1993 following the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque, has launched several public campaigns against Rev. Alavi.
During prayers, Muslim clerics are known to hold up Alavi as a prime example of an enemy of Islam. Rev. Alavi has copies of a collection of audio cassettes - circulated in India and the Middle East - that revile him and his Christian mission.
In 1998, an Islamic group prompted various activists to file 11 charges against Alavi, including rape and fraud.
"All were well-planned and backed by renowned lawyers supported by Islamic groups," he said. "They also produced a woman who claimed I raped her."
Muslim groups announced these crimes throughout the towns of Manjeri, Calicut, Tirur, and others, he said. Posters appeared on walls saying he smuggled arms. These attacks were hard on his family, including his wife Yasmin Alavi, the daughter of Muslim converts, who is very active in extending hospitality to the hundreds of people who come to the Alavi home. The Alavis have three grown children.
"My family was shaken, but I knew the Lord would protect me," he said.
One by one, courts dismissed all charges against Rev. Alavi. Moreover, the Kerala High Court ordered protection for him.
Rev. Alavi still receives many threatening letters from organizations such as Tiger Force and the Islamic Front. His church has been attacked and the cross destroyed.
Police have informed Rev. Alavi of two attempts on his life. No one was aware of the attempts until suspects revealed them while questioned on other charges. Rev. Alavi's outpost among Muslims was once forcefully shut down; the Lutheran church sponsoring his work temporarily moved him to Bangalore to save his life.
A decade ago, a group of Islamic extremists came looking for him while another team was dispatched to murder Chekannur Maulvi, a liberal Muslim teacher who broke with convention and decried Islamic fundamentalism. Maulvi was murdered that day, but Alavi was away from home and thus spared.
"Now, sources have alerted me that I'm second on the hit list prepared by the Muslim fundamentalist NDF," he says.
Last August, while he was still in Manjeri, someone shot at his house in Calicut at around 10 p.m. "The stone wall still carries the mark," he said.
On another occasion, as he was speaking in church, there was a man in the church holding a gun. "But he had to flee when a Lutheran sister tried to talk to him," he said.
Such are the ordeals of a pastor whose widely-published testimony has inspired many Indian Muslims to turn to the path of Jesus. His life story, published in a booklet titled An End of a Search, is translated into 32 languages and circulated in many cities in southern India.
In spite of the dangers, Rev. Avali said he has declined the court-approved security offered to him.
"I can claim security from police wherever I go, but I believe if I do that I'll lose the protection of my guardian angels," said Rev. Alavi, who has been diagnosed with a weak heart. "So I've declined man's support and have turned to God's care and protection. Who can kill me if God's with me?"