A group of tribals from a Jesuit college were beaten by a gang armed with sticks while traveling by train at night. They attack a priest after celebrating mass as usual in a town. In both cases, false accusations of conversions. Card. Thank you: “Christians of all denominations took to the streets to defend Fr. José, a visible witness of ecumenism in this Octave of Prayer for Unity.”
Mumbai () – Two new serious acts of religious intolerance by Hindu fundamentalist groups have targeted the clergy and Catholic institutions in India in recent hours.
On January 18, in the diocese of Jhabua, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, the parish priest of Unnai, Father Joseph Amuthkani, was attacked on the basis of a false accusation of having fraudulently carried out conversions. Father Amuthakani had gone to the village of Bhavudi for mass along with a nun and a catechist, as usual. As they were about to return home after the celebration, some Hindu fundamentalists gathered around them, seized the missal and rosary, and started chanting slogans. The Thandla municipal police intervened and took Father Amuthakani into custody, while Hindu extremists pushed for a complaint to be filed under the anti-conversion law. When the news spread, Christians of all denominations mobilized in defense of the priest.
“They held me in custody for about 7 hours,” Father José told . “Thousands of Christians gathered in front of the police station to demand my release, in front of about 25 right-wing nationalists. I prayed all the time for peace, so they wouldn’t fight among themselves, because God’s people were distraught because they had taken me to the police station and pressured them to release me. The police detained me to protect me. I experienced God’s protection and the love of my people.”
Two days earlier, another serious incident occurred in the state of Maharashtra. At night, a group of tribal teachers from the Vishwa Mandal Sevashram, an educational institution active for more than 30 years in Shirpur, in the Dhule district, were beaten by a gang of Hindu extremists when they were on a train at the railway station. Sangli. The fundamentalists claimed that a Catholic priest was taking them to Goa for a religious conversion. Armed with sticks, they did not hesitate to even attack a disabled teacher. The train then continued its journey to Belgavi, where the tribal teachers were headed, who were escorted by police to the local St. Paul College, before continuing on to Goa.
Fr. Consti Constancio Rodrigues, head of the Shirpur Jesuit mission, declared to : “Seven members of my male staff were beaten up in a planned attack. Every four years we make this trip to Goa. We serve the local community, for its betterment, development and training. It has been a very unfortunate episode, but our mission will continue.
“In these two cases, the police did a good job to maintain public order and the security of our town,” the Card declared. Oswald Thank you, Archbishop of Bombay, to -. But these are the dangers of any anti-conversion law. The Catholic Church is absolutely against forced conversions, our philosophy is clear: we want to bear witness to Christ and we will never put pressure on anyone. I am very happy that in Jhabua Christians of all denominations helped each other and stood in solidarity with Father Joseph. In this octave of prayer for Christian unity, it is a visible testimony of how the disciples of Jesus remain united”.
“We have to be attentive to both parties: protect our religious personnel and our people and, at the same time, not hurt the sensibilities of others,” added Cardinal Gracias. “On January 26, India celebrates Republic Day and we, the Indian Catholic Church, pledge to work for the Constitution, to promote national integration and love of country. We work to promote solidarity and respect for everyone in our country: all the Indians are our brothers and sisters”.