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Attacks on Catholic Churches in India Continue

Attacks on Catholic Churches in India Continue

Publication: Zenit.org
Date: December 13, 2004

Muslim Fundamentalists Blamed for Incident in Tamil Nadu

A group of extremists  recently attacked the Catholic church of St. Francis of Assisi in  Mathal, Diocese of Kottar, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The Indian episcopate told the missionary agency Fides last Thursday  that a group of fanatics broke down the door, smashed windows, and  destroyed the statue of St. Francis outside the church Dec. 3.  Investigators found a rudimental handmade unexploded bomb inside the  church. Police said Muslim fundamentalists were to blame.

Days before the Catholic parish priest and community received threats,  and anti-Christian slogans appeared on the church walls, signed by a  group called Byath. According to the local press, Byath is the name of a  local extremist group.

The pastor, identified only as Father Perpetual, told the Fides agency  how surprised he was by the attack as "in this area Hindus, Christians  and Muslims have always lived peacefully side by side."

Recently episodes of religious fundamentalism, of which the Catholic  community in India has been a victim, prompted the bishops to appeal to  the central government for more protection.

The ruling Congress Party said that a law to halt interreligious  violence will soon be presented to Parliament. The bill will include  compensation for victims, speedier investigation to identify  perpetrators of attacks on places of worship or individuals, and harsher  punishments.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 5, the state of Chhattisgarh was the scene of another  attack against Christians. Naxalite rebels ransacked and burned down the  Church of Matha Mary in the village of Pusnar, in Jagdalpur Diocese.

Some boys entered the church and ran away with religious hymn books and  the missal when they saw the pastor. Later, around 9 p.m., about 20  individuals entered the building after breaking open the door, threw  straw inside the church, and set it on fire.

The local bishop said the same church was attacked two months ago. In  October, a group entered the church, took away the vestments and holy  pictures, and then visited four Catholic families, robbing them of  valuables.

Bishop Simon Stock Palathra of Jagdalpur deplored the fact that "till  today none of the criminals have been nabbed, even though the police  know the attackers," reported AsiaNews.

According to the bishop, the Naxali, who are responsible for the  incidents, "do not want the tribals to become Catholic or Hindu. They  want them "to retain their tribal culture as it suits them to rule over  them."

The Naxali operate in central India and say they are using violence to  claim the rights of peasants who have been left landless.

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