Church demands government action after attack on Catholic school in India

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MUMBAI, India – A Catholic priest in Jharkhand, India, has lodged a complaint to the state governor over attacks on a school and hostel in the state, which has seen a rise of anti-Christian activity.

On Sep. 3, a mob of over 500 people armed with a range of weapons attacked St. John Berchmans Inter College and Loyola Adivasi Hostel in Mundli.

“They began to beat up selectively, choosing the Loyola Adivasi hostel boys. Two of them were seriously injured, and due to the timely intervention of the Religious Sisters … their lives were saved. The rest ran for life and took shelter at different places,” wrote Jesuit Father Thomas Kuzhively, the Secretary of St. John Berchmans Inter College, in his Sept. 11 letter.

In his letter to the governor, the priest documented the extensive damage to the facilities caused by the mob, adding that there “were also attempts made to molest the college girls and the women staff, to which they forcefully resisted.”

“The Principal tried to talk to them but they even charged against him, he just escaped from a hit on his head. They were not in the mood of listening to anyone,” Kuzhively continued.

After their vandalism of the school, the mob then moved to the hostel.

“They began to destroy everything on their move. The smashed things include – the cctv cameras, notice boards, chairs, benches, pictures hanged on the wall, main switch, fuse sets, water pipes and taps both for the drinking water as well as for washing faces and plates, the starter switch of the bore-well. Not satisfied with their anger, they broke open the gate of the grilled verandah where our motorbikes were kept. They smashed four of the bikes kept there. Then they broke open the Hostel Director’s Office room where they destroyed the cctv DVR, the TV set, a desk top computer, the printer, the inverter, the furniture, most of the files and documents, briefly saying – they vandalized the entire office,” the priest documented.

Kuzhively noted that over a week after the attack, “no concrete action has been taken against any of the culprits.”

“We are still frightened, anxious and perplexed to learn: 1) Even after all the information was given, the police has taken no steps to book the culprits so that the people can feel that the administration has taken control of the situation; 2) We are informed that they are having meetings in different villages, we fear, maybe, for a second attack; 3) The presence of such a large number of anti-social elements who are not students of the college in the ransacking makes us doubt whether it was the handiwork of the students alone. Seemingly the small quarrel between Ravi and Pradeep, could it be the whole matter to make such a terrible destruction and violence to take place? 4) We are bound to raise the question of “Why the administration is not coming forward to do their primary duty and assure safety and protection as well as to keep the law and order in the area”? 5) Why nobody is arrested to date (even after 8 days)? Are we not giving the anti-socials upper hand by being passive to their cynical activities?”

Christians have been facing increased harassment in the state of Jharkhand since two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, were arrested last year after being accused of trying to sell a baby from a shelter for unwed mothers.

The alleged child-selling has drawn criticism from Hindu nationalists of the charitable work done by Christian groups in the country, which they say is done for the purpose of proselytism.

Jharkhand is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalist group and also holds power at the national level.

Christians make up about 4.3 percent of the population of Jharkhand, nearly twice the national average. Most of the Christians belong to the marginalized Tribal community, which are India’s aboriginal people who mostly live outside the caste system.

Recently, a priest was arrested on a charge of “forced conversion”, and a priest and a nurse working at a Catholic school were taken into custody after being charged with sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl. Church officials say both incidents were concocted to stir up anti-Christian animosity.

“The concerted efforts of the rightwing continue, especially in Jharkhand, targeting the minorities and particularly the Christians. The rule of law is now rule of the mob,” Jesuit Father George Pattery, the South Asia provincial, told Crux.


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