07/21/2005, 00.00
INDIA
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Crosses desecrated in Goa

by Nirmala Carvalho

Goa (AsiaNews) – Four crosses were desecrated in seven days in Ponda Parish, in the state of Goa, the former Portuguese colony on India West Coast.

"Desecrating the crosses conceals an ulterior motive, namely sowing the seeds of communal suspicion and unrest in Goa," said Father Loiola, secretary to the Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Mgr Filipe Neri Ferrão, Patriarch of the East Indies.

"There have been sporadic cases of communal violence," Father Loiola noted, "but Archbishop Ferrão has refused to view them as instances of anti-Christian violence.  He left any action or official complaint with the State Administration to local parish priests."

Two crosses were struck on the night of July 13-14. The cross near the Mount Carmel Chapel was completely destroyed; the other one, which is on private property, was damaged.

Another cross was found damaged at Farmagudi Ponda this week and it is worrisome that it should so close to the other to acts of vandalism.

Some weeks back, a cross at Opa was also found to be desecrated.

The small state of Goa is dotted with crosses rising along public roads and on private properties. Christians often meet at these sites in May to recite litanies when the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated.

These acts have not however raised sectarian tensions among religious groups, which are united in their condemnation.

"The Church and the clergy are highly respected in Goa. Our educational institutions are most sought after by people of all faiths. They are considered prestigious, not only because of the level of academics, but because of the values that are transmitted to the students," Father Loiola said.

Ponda has a Hindu majority and law enforcement is checking out whether the incidents are motivated by religious hatred or a feud between families.

For Father Loiola, it is too early to label what happened as a fundamentalist attack against the Catholic Church even if there have been cases of anti-Christian intolerance in the past.

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