08/24/2004, 00.00
INDIA

Priest seriously injured in attack against Catholic Church

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Last Sunday night a gang of armed men attacked a Catholic parish church in the city of Kubbu in the Lohardaga district of eastern Indian State of Jharkhand. Both parish priest and vicar were injured and admitted to hospital with the latter suffering serious knife wounds.

The dozen or so attackers, age ranging from 25 to 55, struck under the cover of darkness. They entered the church building armed with hatchets, swords, and knives. They eventually made their escape but not before ransacking the parochial house and emptying the church's moneyboxes. The police did arrive at the crime scene a while later but has not so far found any clue as to the attackers' identity. It has however posted two sentries to guard the church against any further danger.

Mgr. Michael Minj, Bishop of Gumla (another district in Jharkhand State) told AsiaNews that "the attack has shaken locals. The fact that the attackers were armed means that their act was premeditated."

The pro-Hindu fundamentalism Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power in Jharkhand State, a State with a large Adivasi (tribal) population. The Church has for a long time been committed to empowering the Adivasis through education and development programmes, but in doing so it has caused a backlash among Hindu fundamentalists who see the Church's action as proselytising. Organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), which are even more extremist than the BJP, are prominent in the State.

"Attacks against Christian institutions like the one that occurred on Sunday are worrying," Bishop Minj said. By contrast, local law enforcement authorities were quick to dismiss the attack as a simple case of robbery, and no further investigation seems to be planned since the attackers got away. For his part Bishop Minj is waiting for "the return of Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand's State capital), who is now in South Korea attending the Assembly of Asian Bishops, before the case is taken up with State authorities." (NC)

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