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  • » 02/05/2015, 00.00

    INDIA

    Peaceful march in Delhi: police beat and stop priests, nuns and children

    Nirmala Carvalho

    Demonstrators gathered to protest against attacks on Catholic churches over the past two months. Police declared the rally "Illegal". For Card Gracias, treating "Christians like criminals" was "a shameful stain on secular and democratic India." The government denies visas to two Vatican officials without explanation. They were only supposed to take part in a conference.

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) - This morning, Delhi police stopped, beat and detained dozens of priests, nuns and lay people (including women, seniors and children) who were participating in a peaceful protest in front of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

    Protesters were marching in silence to protest against the attacks on Catholic churches in the city over the past two months. Police justified their heavy-handed intervention by saying that the gathering was "illegal."

    "What happened today is a shameful stain on secular and democratic India," Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, told AsiaNews.

    Several Christian groups had organised the silent march that was supposed to end in front of the residence of Home Minister Rajnath Singh. However, hundreds of police showed up to stop them.

    An elderly woman who had fallen was picked up by four policewomen and thrown into a police van.

    "People were detained. No one has the right to protest on the road," said senior police officer Mukesh Kumar Meena. "They cannot just march to the Home minister's residence. We have to protect the residence of VIPs."

    The archbishop of Mumbai, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), noted "the way in which our women religious were treated, women who consecrated their lives to God dragged away like criminals. Not even children were spared. "

    "Christians constitute less than 2 per cent of India's population," Card Gracias said. "In Delhi they are just over 100,000 [out of 25 million residents]."

    "They are a peaceful and law-abiding community. Our educational institutions and health facilities are at the service of the nation. Yet, in response to tens of decades of nation building, our women religious, our priests and our people are treated like criminals. This is a shame, a disgrace and a stain on our motherland."

    Even Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), slammed the "repressive action by the police."

    "What happened today," he told AsiaNews, "is a sign that the atrocities against the tiny Christian community continue to escalate, whilst the authorities remain silent before the growing intolerance".

    Meanwhile, "The Indian Government this week denied entry permits (visa) to Archbishop Arthur Roche and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa , who were scheduled to attend a conference on 'Liturgy and Life' in Bangalore between 3 and 9 February," Sajan George said.

    "The two Vatican officials had applied for their Visa's in mid-December but were turned down. No reason is cited for the denial of visas."

    Mgr Roche is the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Mgr Rugambwa is an official with the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

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    See also

    26/09/2011 INDONESIA
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    Five years after the Orissa pogroms, Christians still live in appalling conditions
    The victims of the anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 are still denied justice and assistance. Hundreds of people are still without identity papers or title deeds. Violence remains an ever present problem, especially for Dalit Christian girls and women.

    11/04/2011 CHINA
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    Police detain nearly 200 from the Protestant Church of Shouwang, one of the largest domestic churches. The faithful wanted to pray in the streets after being evicted from their premises. Wave of repression against the "jasmine revolution" also extends to religious groups. Many activists have become Christians.

    15/06/2010 INDIA
    Communal violence legislation, a matter “of life and death” for millions of Indians
    India’s federal Home Affairs minister is seeking quick approval for the Communal Violence Bill, which will impose harsher penalties on those guilty of stoking inter-religious conflict. However, Fr C. Prakash, a front-line minority rights advocate, opposes the draft proposal because it does not prevent collusion between politicians and police in communal crimes.

    09/02/2015 INDIA
    India's Catholic Bishops call for a stop to anti-Christian violence, say Christians are not second-class citizens
    During the plenary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), the bishops spoke of "various untoward incidents affecting the Christian community in different parts of the country." The Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion (art. 25) and equality (art. 14). The silence on the part of government institutions and law enforcement vis-à-vis such attacks is "baffling".



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