03/17/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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"Implacable" violence against Goa Christians, says archbishop

by Nirmala Carvalho
Mgr Filipe Neri Ferrao slams cross desecration and church burglaries in Goa calling on the authorities to do something. Council for Justice and Peace director says such acts are politically motivated.

Goa (AsiaNews) – "Another cross was vandalised in Comba, Margao; another symbol of the Christian faith is desecrated. The violence against places of worship and symbols belonging to the minority community seem implacable," said Mgr Filipe Neri Ferrao, archbishop of Goa and Daman. His outburst came in the wake of the destruction of a cross in "Our Lady of Grace" Parish, near Margao's commercial district. And the incident is but the latest in a long string.

In an official statement, the prelate urged the local authorities to "take prompt and effective steps" against the culprits. "We are deeply pained with this disturbing trend [. . .] our heart reaches out first to our Christian brethren in their grief in a spirit of genuine solidarity. We appeal to everyone, especially to Christians, to remain calm and not to let themselves be provoked by such violent acts."

He went on to invite Christians to follow in "the footsteps of our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ [. . .] to be promoters of peace and harmony and, inspired by His supreme sacrifice on the Cross, be witnesses of love and reconciliation."

Fr Valerian Vaz, chairman of the Council for Justice and Peace in the archdiocese of Goa, explained that "the incident took place at around 4.20 am, which goes to show the cowardice of these fanatical elements and their desire to destroy religious harmony."

According to Archbishop Ferrao, "those who perpetrated this act belong to no religious community because violence has neither religion nor God".

He expressed gratitude and appreciation for the solidarity shown by people of other religions who helped in rebuilding the cross "and restoring a sense of security in the local aggrieved Christian community".

According to Father Maverick, director of Goa Council for Justice and Peace, these incidents are politically motivated.

"Elections are scheduled in Goa next year, and mutual tensions, mistrust and insecurity can favour political parties," he said.

Archbishop Ferrao told local authorities that "in the last 14 months there has a host of burglaries in our churches and chapels as well as a number of acts of vandalism involving our revered religious symbols. [But] in spite of repeated requests and appeals to the concerned authorities, there seems to be a certain indifference in tackling the matter".

"Therefore, we strongly urge our civil authorities to take prompt and effective action and restore the confidence of the people who are wondering whether security has collapsed in our state."

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