07/31/2008, 00.00
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After Father Prakash’s death, threats and extortion attempts are made against Nepali Catholics

by Kalpit Parajuli
Criminals announce new attacks against Catholic faithful and religious institutions. Hindu fundamentalists are suspected. Apostolic vicar turns to Interior minister to get greater “protection and security” for the entire Christian community.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church of Nepal is facing threats of abductions, bomb attacks, new assassinations and requests for extortion money by an unidentified criminal group which might be involved in the murder of Fr John Prakash, the Salesian clergyman killed on 1 July in Sirsiya (Morang district) in the east of the country.

Thugs have threatened employees at Catholic institutions as well as the institutions themselves, using phone numbers and contact names found on the cellphone that was stolen from Father Prakash the night when he was murdered.

The repeated threats received in the last week have led Mgr Anthony Sharma, apostolic vicar to Nepal, to write a letter to the Interior minister, asking for greater protection for the Christian community. Monsignor Sharma himself has been the object of intimidations.

“The threats of the last few days are a cause for serious concern for Nepali Catholics,” said the prelate. “They are a sign of the growing sense of insecurity that is felt, especially by Christians.

“We have informed the government of our concerns, but so far have not seen any improvement,” he said.

The prelate does not rule out closing “Catholic schools as well as welfare and charitable institutions’, but insists that “any decision will be taken at a meeting” by Catholic leaders.

In an interview with AsiaNews Modraj Dotel, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said that the “government is aware of the threat and has informed the security services,” adding that the “Nepal government has deployed special security forces to guard some Catholic institutions” and places of worship whilst the police continues its investigation to find the culprits.

Fr Pius Perumana, superior at the St John Pastoral Centre in Godawari, located 15 kilometres south-west of Kathmandu, confirmed that he too has received phone calls by someone who claimed to be “against Muslims.”

Some Catholic leaders like Binod Gurung, president of the Nepal Catholic Society, have not excluded the possibility that “intimidations are the work of Hindu fundamentalists who have already attacked groups of Catholic workers in the past,” not to mention other religious minorities, including Muslims.

In Nepal, 75 per cent of the population of 25 million is Hindu. Animist constitute about 9 per cent of the total. Buddhists are 8 per cent. Muslims are around 4 per cent whilst Christians are about 2.5 per cent, including about 7,000 Catholics.

The Catholic Church runs about 30 schools and more than 40 associations that operate in the social field; among them, emergency assistance for the indigent and the needy.

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