02/03/2006, 00.00
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Hindu fundamentalists desecrate Cross in Goa

by Nirmala Carvalho
The resort town of Aldona is the scene of the act of vandalism. On a broken piece of the cross, someone wrote Mr Foreigner. "The cross is at the heart of our Christian faith. This act deeply hurts our religious feelings," says Fr Babu Joseph.

Aldona (AsiaNews) – Hindu fundamentalists broke a wayside cross in Cardona, a hamlet in Aldona, a well-known tourist resort in the state of Goa. The desecration occurred overnight January 30.

"The wayside cross was broken into four pieces and 'Shri Pardesi' (Mr Foreigner) was boldly written across the cross," said Fr Loiola Pereira, director of the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications and official spokesman for Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao.

"This is an act of desecration, which is far more serious than [. . .] burglary, which has been a plague in the Archdiocese of Goa since February 2005. Since then, there have been 11 thefts of valuable antique statues from Churches all across Goa," Father Loiola explained.

"Breaking the cross is far more serious: it offends the religious sensibilities of the Christian community. 'Shi Pardesi' written across the broken cross [. . .] is even more revealing of their intent," he lamented.

"Carona is a peaceful community. There are 280 Catholic and 50 Hindu families and we have always co-existed in peace and harmony for ages," said Fr Mathew Rodrigues, the chaplain at Carona's St. Rita's Chapel.

"Hindus and Catholics even speak the same dialect, and both communities are surprised and upset with the desecration. Fortunately, the police have arrested one person in connection with the crime," Fr. Rodrigues noted.

"We strongly condemn the desecration of the cross in Goa. The cross is holy and is at the heart of our Christian faith," said Fr Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of India.

"This act of desecration hurts our religious feelings. The words 'Shri Pardesi'—Mr Foreigner—cannot be ignored. It is proof that the vandalism was motivated by fundamentalist reasons. This act cannot be underestimated; it is a sign that Hindu fundamentalists are using intimidation and targeting traditional Christian areas," he explained.

"It is with determination that we call on those behind the violence and desecration to stop in order to maintain social harmony and friendly relations in our cities. We appeal to the authorities of the state to take urgent and necessary measures to check the situation and ensure that tensions are not fuelled." 

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