05/04/2006, 00.00
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Indian Church condemns Gujarat violence

Bishops' Conference is saddened by violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Vadadora; it calls on all parties to engage in a patient dialogue. Minister condemns police for inaction and shooting into the crowd.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/CBCI) - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) condemned on Wednesday the continued violence in Vadodara, Gujarat.  In a press statement, CBCI Secretary General Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes said the Catholic Church in India was "saddened by the violence in Vadodara."

"It is unfortunate," he said, "that the razing to the ground of a holy shrine, symbol of peace and harmony, should also bring crumbling down the fragile edifice of trust and harmony that was emerging in this communally-sensitive state."

On May Day, local authorities tore down a dargah, a century-old shrine built over the grave of a Sufi saint, because the land was state-owned. The local Muslim community's protest was met by police shooting at the crowd. Hindu extremists fanned the flames of sectarian violence by targeted attacks against Muslims. In three days, six people have been killed.

The government responded by imposing a curfew and deploying army patrols since yesterday. Tensions have eased somewhat today and the curfew was lifted for a few hours for women and children.

Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, condemned the demolition of the dargah as well as police behaviour.

Some 50 people, both Hindu and Muslim, were arrested yesterday in relation to the violence.

The clashes have re-opened wounds still fresh from 2002 when some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in sectarian violence in the state.

In the CBCI statement, Archbishop Fernandes said that "only proactive and patient efforts and actions of tolerance and respect can build goodwill and harmony among peoples of all communities."

The CBCI statement appealed to all groups and communities and religious leaders to promote reconciliation and peace and not provoke harmful religious sentiments.

The prelate reaffirmed the Catholic Church's commitment to work for harmonious and peaceful resolution to conflicts and situations of injustice so that all of India's peoples and communities can enjoy a lasting and fulfilling peace.

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