09/08/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Sisters of Mother Teresa still under investigation for "child kidnapping". Church burned

The four children being taken by the sisters to their institute are in the custody of the railway police. The campaign of the Hindu fundamentalists is spreading into Madya Pradesh, where young Christians have been beaten, and a church has been burned.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - No change in the situation of the four children in police custody, following charges by Hindu radicals that they were "kidnapped and converted" by four sisters of Mother Teresa. The incident is a further sign of the campaign that Hindu fundamentalists have launched against the Christians. Yesterday, an Anglican church was burned in Madya Pradesh.

Last September 5 - the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta - four of Mother Teresa's sisters were attacked by about 20 Bajrang Dal activists at the train station in Durgh (Chhattisghar). The Hindu radicals forced them off the train and handed them over to police agents while chanting anti-Christian slogans.

The Hindu fundamentalists accused the sisters - Sr Mamta, the superior, Sr Ignacio, Sr Josephina, and Sr Laborius - of the "kidnapping and forced conversion" of four children between one and two years old, whom the sisters were taking from their house in Raipur to the Shishu Bhava charity center in Bhopal. The sisters had documents attesting to their responsibility for the children, in need of care. While waiting for the verification of all the documents, the sisters spent the night of September 5 in prison.

This morning, Sr Mamta told AsiaNews that "the children are still in the government hospital, while the police are investigating the authenticity of the documents". A police official of the district of Durg (Chhattisghar) says that "the case is under the responsibility of the railway police".

"All of our documents are valid", Sr Mamta continues, "but we are truly powerless: the police will take a long time to verify them. For our part, we have registered an initial complaint, but these procedures will take a long time, and our concern is that we will not have enough time to dedicate ourselves to the sick and to the children who need us".

Meanwhile, the campaign continues against the Christians and their alleged forced or "paid" conversions. From Orissa - the theater of a genuine pogrom in recent weeks - the fury of the Hindu radicals is spreading to other regions.

Yesterday morning, an Anglican church was burned in Ratlam (Madya Pradesh). It was 86 years old, and dedicated to the apostle Bartholomew. Made entirely of wood, it burned quickly. The faithful suspect that those responsible are radical groups of Bajrang Dal (BD, the same organization that accused the sisters of Mother Teresa). The BD denies the accusation, attributing the fire to a short-circuit.

For some time, the community of Ratlam has been in the crosshairs of the fundamentalists, under the accusation of forced conversions.

Pastor Jose Mathew says that on August 15, groups of the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and of the BD attacked a meeting of young people, beating many of them, including a pastor, Satya, his wife, and some members of the NGO World Vision. (NC)

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