06/26/2018, 15.06
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Statue of Our Lady decapitated in Natore

by Sumon Corraya

The sculpture is in Shibpur, a mostly tribal village home to 300 Catholics. The community is so small that it has no resident priest and a catechist is in charge of worship. After police arrested the latter, local Catholics have demanded his release.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The statue of the Virgin Mary of the Church of Shibpur in Nature was found headless yesterday.

The desecration by unknown criminals took place on Sunday night and has caused sadness and bitterness among local Catholics.

Instead of pursuing the culprits, police yesterday arrested and questioned Sushil Mardy, the catechists who leads the worship.

The small church is located in Shibpur, a mostly tribal village, home to about 300 Catholics, including 47 ethnic Santal families. The church belongs to the parish of Mohipara (which has about 3,000 members), in the Diocese of Rajshahi.

The local Christian community is so small that there is no resident priest. The catechist, Mardy, is the only one who takes care of the religious service.

Fr Bernard B. Rozario, parish priest of Mohipara, told AsiaNews that "people were already shocked by the damage to the statue. Now they are even more so and feel bad because of the arrest of the catechist who leads the worship."

“On Sunday night,” the priest explained, “some criminals broke down the church door and wrecked the sculpture. Then they ripped up the Bible and some liturgical texts and threw them into a nearby pond."

Surmoni Mardi, a local Catholic who first noticed the devastation when he went to collect some wood, raised the alarm. With other women, she burst into tears at the sight of the decapitated statue.

Later Azim Uddin, a Muslim, found the sacred texts on the shores of the pond when he went fishing. The witnesses then called the local Church authorities.

“We filed a general diary at the police station,” Fr Rozario said. “Officers inspected the site and took the statue to the station, from where they are investigating."

Some villagers went to the station to ask for the catechist’s release. "I too want to see him released because he has nothing to do with the incident."

For now, no one knows why the statue was vandalised. So far, local Catholics have always lived in harmony with Hindus and Muslims.

Perhaps, but there is no evidence for this, the statue was attacked because the statue of a Hindu deity was vandalised in the nearby village of Mominpur.

"I call on the authorities to investigate the incident and do justice,” said the parish priest. “We want to practise our religion in freedom."

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