Statue of Mary set on fire in Madhya Pradesh
by Nirmala Carvalho

The effigy is located in the parish of St. Joseph, a few kilometers from the archiepiscopal seat. The police open an investigation. For the bishop of Jhabua, not all hopes are lost: "More than 25 thousand people will participate in the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A statue of the Virgin Mary was set on fire in Madhya Pradesh, in the village of Ishgar, which falls under the diocese of Jhabua. This was reported by the Christian group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). Its president Sajan K George says that the fire "took place on 3 February last. The statue of Mary was found burnt in the grotto of the parish of St. Joseph, about 10 km away from the archbishop's house". The Christian community, he adds, "is very disturbed and its religious sentiment is deeply wounded".

Fr Rockey Shah, spokesman for the diocese of Jhabua, announced that a complaint had been registered. "Investigations are under way. We presented a memorandum to the police officer and the collector. We have asked our people to pray for peace and harmony and not to react aggressively ".

According to Sajan K George, the burning is a deep wound for the local Church. " The vulnerable Christian community conintues to suffer hostility from groups which sow seeds of mistrust and division among the community. Social disharmony is caused and the Christian faith is viewed with suspicion India a secular state and our Constitution ensures that none shall be discriminated against on the ground of religion."

The Christian leader protests: "Unfortunately, repeated attacks and incidents against Christians reveal that minorities are not treated in the same way". Finally, he recalls that Fr. Damor, the priest accused of instigating a girl to suicide, "is still in jail and denied bail."

Msgr. Basil Bhuriya, bishop of Jhabua, reports that he "visited the Grotto around 9.30 pm, the same day, it was very sad to witness the scene, police were guarding the place, I said Prayers at the Grotto and consoled our people who were present. There are nearly 4,000 Catholics in this Parish. A case has been registered against unidentified persons. We will renew this Grotto and offer Mass However, the situation is not too grim, currently in Sacred Heart Parish, nearly 4 kms away from Archbsihop’s House, dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, Novena’s to Our Lady of Lourdes is underway, and we are celebrating the Feast on Sunday 10th Feb(for convenience of our faithful) . More than 25,000 people will attend the Feast Mass. Mary draws all generations and faiths to her".