2015-05-14 16:58:00

India: A Christian Centre and 3 Churches attacked in Madhya Pradesh

(Vatican Radio) Tuesday night, suspected Hindu radicals attacked three churches in Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, and a temporary home of Augustinian nuns (OAS) in Pipaldhar, which houses a centre for disabled children run by nuns, as reported by AsiaNews.  

While, unknown attackers threw heavy bricks on the roof of the building, which is home to rehabilitation centre for children with mental disabilities, in Pipaldhar, the extremists threw stones, destroyed crosses, vandalised various items and attempted to set fire to one of the places of worship in Indore. However, police intervened before they could carry out their plans.

One of the places of worship attacked is St Paul’s Anglican Church. Its priest, Rev Ramesh Chandekar said that militants damaged and destroyed a number of items, including a crucifix, holy vessels and the microphone. The attackers also tried to set fire to a second Protestant church, throwing burning rags inside. Immediately alerted, police acted quickly and put out the flames before they could spread. Extremists also threw stones at a third (Protestant) church, breaking glass panels and windows.

With regard to the Catholic centre at Pipaldhar, fortunately, at the time of the incident, there were no children. The four nuns inside the building were unharmed.

"It was 3:15 am Tuesday (12 May),” Sister Jaya, from the Congregation of Augustinian nuns, told AsiaNews. “Everyone was asleep, when suddenly heavy bricks were thrown on the roof of the house and fell into the room where we slept. Thanks to the Lord’s Divine Providence, no one was injured and the children were not present at that time. Now we sisters are afraid."

Sister Jaya explained that the nuns had set up a centre for the rehabilitation of children with mental disorders inside their residence, which is located in the Diocese of Khandwa. Over the past four years, 14 children have benefited from the care of experts and now the congregation is building a new and larger facility for children in need. "We want to build this centre in our own home,” she explained. “For this reason, the sisters are now staying temporarily at another home.”

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), strongly condemned the attacks, which took place a few hours before Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress Party, inaugurated a missionary-run orphanage. The Sanskritik Jagran Manch, a local right-wing Hindu organisation, has come under suspicion for what happened after it threatened ‘direct action’ against Gandhi yesterday if she actually opened the facility. The orphanage is located in a building previously owned by a private organisation. District authorities took it over and gave it to missionaries to turn into an orphanage.

Attacks on churches in Madhya Pradesh, a state run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reflect the situation of the state’s tiny Christian community, whose ‘religious freedom is on a downward spiral’.

Slamming the attack on the Catholic Centre for disabled children in no uncertain terms, Sajan George said "This is an attack not only against the sisters but also against children, those with more difficulties. All this makes the misdeed worse,” he said.

“The attack is an affront against society itself, to which the women religious offer a tireless and generous service by caring for needy children,” he added. “The sisters re-educate children that society marginalises.”

Lastly, “The authors of the crime show a lack of morality. Their night-time raid reflects the darkness of their minds and hearts." Such a terrible act has to be "condemned in the strongest terms."

The congregation has requested for police protection. Tuesday afternoon, it also filed a complaint at the Sendhwa police station.

In view of the findings presented in the chapter dedicated to India in the 2015 Report on Religious Freedom in the World, issued by the US Commission on religious freedom, the GCIC president called on "The BJP government to keep its most extremists elements under control, and act swiftly to stop them by enforcing the Indian Penal Code as a deterrent and as a warning to radical groups, who attack without provocation the Christian minority.”

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