Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “The Church in India, which has always selflessly served the poorest and marginalised people through its social ministry, is now victimised by propaganda that unjustly accuses it of proselytism.” This was what Mgr Valerian D’Souza, bishop of Poona, had to say two days after a young Salesian seminarian was beaten up in his diocese.
Paulus Kongadi, 24 years, was attacked on 8 July in Chandsi village near Nashik, Maharashtra state. The seminarian was travelling by bicycle to undertake a regular Sunday programme among village youth, to whom he teaches games and English. At some point, a group of eight strangers attacked him from behind and beat him with hockey sticks and cricket bats on his legs and back. His companion Justin found him on the side of the road, bleeding, and carried him to hospital. Now he is better but is suffering from considerable shock. Local residents cannot believe what happened.
The Salesian seminary is around 30 years old and hosts 56 students of philosophy and 17 novices. Nashik is an important place of pilgrimage for Hindus. The provincial superior of the Salesians in Mumbai, Fr Ivo Coelho, told AsiaNews that this “is the first attack against us and has taken us by surprise, not least because we still have no clue for the reason for the attack; our priests and seminarians work with extreme respect for the place and for the Hindu religion.” The case of Valerian, said the priest, “will not prevent us from carrying on our ministry; rather, sharing concretely in the sufferings of the crucified Christ renews our faith to bear witness for His name.”
Mgr D’Souza believes the incident is part of a widespread anti-Christian campaign under way in India, where extremist splinter groups are seeking to break the influence of the Church in society by mounting a “false propaganda campaign of conversions and proselytism” against it.