In Daman, ancient chapel could give way to a football pitch
by Nirmala Carvalho

The BJP-ruled municipality proposes to tear down the place of worship, which dates back to the early times of Portuguese rule in order to widen a sports facility. The city says it will act only if it obtains the consent of the faithful. The local Catholic community is strongly opposed. People of all faiths are praying for consolation and solace in times of trouble and distress.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – A Catholic chapel in Daman with more than 400 years of history might be demolished to make way for an expanded football pitch. Local authorities made the disconcerting proposal last November.

Once part of Portuguese India, the city of Daman now belongs to the Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Union Territory, and is geographically enclaved in the State pf Gujarat.

The chapel in question is dedicated to Our Lady of Angustias and dates back to early Portuguese rule. Local Catholics have launched a campaign in recent days against the city’s request.

Daman Municipal Council President Sonal Patel, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, responded by promising a meeting with local priests and faithful, assuring them that any demolition will be done only with their consent.

"The government has not yet decided,” said Fr Anselmo D'Souza, superior of the Daman Mission. “They sent a ‘Notification for Social Impact Assessment’ and we have responded,” saying that “we are not happy with this, and that we will not give up the land nor the chapel.”

“Some 600 people live around the chapel. In September, on the feast of Our Lady, people came here from other areas. People in this church pray for consolation and solace in times of trouble and distress. People of all faiths attend.”

"We are certain that government authorities will take our point of view into consideration,” reads an official letter sent by the Catholic community to the Daman Municipal Council. “We hope that they will not proceed with the acquisition of the land and the religious monument.”