04/26/2017, 16.50
NEPAL
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After Kathmandu’s Assumption cathedral hit by arson attack, Vicariate holds prayer for peace

by Christopher Sharma

On 18 April, unknown arsonists caused a fire at the pastor’s residence. Investigations have not led to any arrests. In 2009 three people died in another attack. This “won’t discourage us. We shall continue with our duties,” said parish priest.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Apostolic Vicariate of Nepal has called on all Catholics in the Himalayan nation to pray for peace and minority rights.

Church leaders made the appeal yesterday, following an arson attack against a vehicle parked near Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral and damaged the parish's residence.

The Vicariate "decided to hold an hour prayer in all of the country’s churches,” said Chirendra Satyal, spokesman for the local Catholic Church. “Someone attacked the Catholic minority, which is innocent and contributes a lot to needy communities. This kind of threat to religious freedom must be stopped.”

Last week’s incident is the second of its kind against Nepal’s main Catholic church. In 2009 a bomb exploded killing three people during a religious service. The latter was blamed on the Nepal Defence Army, an extremist Hindu group.

Police launched an investigation into the 18 April attack, but has not made any arrest so far.

"I was asleep when fire broke out and flames came into the house,” said Father Ignatius, the parish priest. “I woke up and ran into the children's room to get them out.”

“We managed to save ourselves thanks to the help of people who live nearby. Without it, the residence, the church, and the training centre could have completely burnt down. But this won’t discourage us. We shall continue with our duties.”

"Whoever did it, he must be brought to justice,” said Fr Benjamin. “We did not make any mistakes. In 2009, innocent people were killed and now we see another horrible attack. Minorities must have the right to exercise their faith freely.”

"Hundreds of people joined in the prayer for peace and for Christians,” said Satyal Chirendra. “Hundreds of non-Catholics came to the mass and condemned the violence and attacks against minorities." He added that many young people wore T-shirts that read “We would like to see Jesus " (John 12:21).

During the prayer in the cathedral, Fr Benjamin said, "Let us pray for peace and solidarity. This incident teaches us to be alert about possible attacks. Churches all over Nepal have to be careful and increase security."

He noted that minorities must be guaranteed "respect and dignity, so that all religious groups can be free to practice their faith. We can no longer endure persecution and violence."

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