03/23/2015, 00.00
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India, fresh attacks on two Catholic churches "evil and dangerous"

by Nirmala Carvalho
Stones fired at St. George’s in Mumbai (Maharashtra); extremists beat and rob some faithful in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), and then demolish the door of the cathedral. Catholic bishops condemn the attacks to AsiaNews. Religious leaders denounce the pervasive climate of impunity: "Extremists are becoming increasingly brazen."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "I am pained and saddened at these two incidents, which are malicious and mischievous, and an assault on our people and I strongly condemn these incidents. We pray for our India, Inter faith  Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence,  and  mutual respect among all peoples for the progress and development of community, society and our nation".  This is the reaction of  Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Council of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), commenting to AsiaNews on two separate attacks on a church in Mumbai (Maharashtra) and a cathedral in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) two days ago.

Earlly March 22, three people threw stones at the statue of the saint to whom the Catholic St. George church is dedicated, in the district of New Panvel Mumbai. CCTV cameras filmed the vandals, who, however, were wearing masks. The church was built in 2007 and can accommodate over 800 people.

Earlier in Jabalpur a group of people broke into the courtyard of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, where the participants in a seminar biblical were sleeping. Msgr. Gerald Almeida, Bishop of Jabalpur, told AsiaNews: "We organized the seminar after having requested and obtained the necessary permits from the local administration and police. The three-day convention began Friday, March 20: the faithful of all the districts of dioceses came and we have hosted them in St. Thomas school".

At the end of the first day, the prelate continued, "participants who live in the area are back to sleep in their homes, while about 200 people were in the dorm. The police had been alerted, but had only sent a few agents who said: 'You Christians are peaceful people'. Around one o'clock in the morning, a large number of people raided the building, attacking the faithful and stealing their belongings. After the beating, the attackers destroyed the door of the cathedral and some vehicles. The police arrived several hours later, only at 4 am, when it was all over. "

Msgr. Cornelius Leo, archbishop of Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), told AsiaNews: "Some elements are getting bolder because no action has been taken since the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist right - ed] has come to power and this is dangerous for our democratic values. These anti-social elements encourage each other to indulge in anti-social activities. They have no religious meaning but use religion to create a polarization. The government is not too serious. The BJP's activities affect the state. The prime minister has released statements that there will be no religious intolerance or polarization. But these elements have sought encouragement in the fact that the Centre is not dealing with them in a harsh way"

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) strongly condemns the new anti-Christian attacks that took place in India. "These episodes - President Sajan George told AsiaNews - reveal the fragile situation of religious freedom in our country. The right-wing groups carry out their reign of terror against the vulnerable Christian community."

In Madhya Pradesh, says the GCIC, leader "the Hindu Dharma Sena terrifies minorities exploiting the draconian anti-conversion law, which is used to move false accusations against innocent Christians. These extremists enjoy the protection policy of the government and endanger the lives of the Christian community".



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