12/16/2009, 00.00
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New attack against a church in Karnataka, the fourth in four days

by Nirmala Carvalho
Stones are thrown at the Grotto of Saint Anthony in the village of Kolaigiri. It is the 66th act of violence against the Christian community in Karnataka. For the Global Council of Indian Christians, the authorities in BJP-run States ignore “a rising culture of violence and terror against minority Christian communities.”
Mangalore (AsiaNews) – The Grotto of Saint Anthony of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Kolaigiri (Udupi) was attacked over night on Monday. This is 66th attack against Christian communities in the Indian State of Karnataka, the fourth in as many days.

The act of vandalism was discovered early Tuesday morning when two worshippers noticed that the grotto’s glass enclosure was damaged (pictured).

District superintendent of police Pravin Madhukar Pawar visited the site, and said that security forces “will not spare any efforts to arrest those who have done this to disturb the peace in Udupi district.”

Fr Jerome Monterio has been parish priest at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Kolaigiri for the past eight years. He said the village “is a peaceful place,” where “there is no reason to suspect anyone”.

This escalation of violence against a number of Christian communities in the State is a rising concern.

Sajan K George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic), told AsiaNews that the incident in Kolaigiri is the fourth of its kind against Christians in the State in the past four days.

On Saturday, extremists assaulted members of the choir of Saint Paul’s Methodist Church. On Monday, worshippers in Virapt were detained for a few hours at a police station on charges of forced conversion. A Protestant minister and his wife were beaten by members of extremist groups for the same reason.

In Karnataka, “Christians are treated like second-class citizens, the GCIC president said. Vandalism, attacks against churches, Christians arrested and false accusations of forced conversions have become daily occurrences.

“This fundamentalism is growing before the unseeing eyes of the authorities, who ignore a rising culture of violence and terror against minority Christian communities,” George said.

He points the finger at the States run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), full of concern for the “inexplicable delay in beefing up security despite the growing number of incidents,” not coincidentally in close proximity to Christmas celebrations.

“It is ironic,” the GCIC president, “that whilst our pastors are arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the perpetrators of the crimes against them in many cases go scot free, even in cases where they have unleashed violence against harmless congregations of believers.”

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