Hindu Extremists Attack Catholic Church in India

4-Year-Old Among the 7 Injured in Sunday Assault

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MYSORE, India, FEB. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A group of armed extremists of the pro-Hindu Bajrang Dal attacked a Catholic church during a Sunday Mass, injuring seven people including a 4-year-old child.



Seventy men barged into Holy Family Church in nearby Hinkal around 9:15 a.m. shouting anti-Christian slogans and lashing out at the 400-odd Christian worshippers with clubs and stones, the Catholic SAR News agency reported.

The men damaged the windows of the church and ransacked the parish priest´s room, sources said. The mob charged the local Christians with converting Hindus to Christianity.

The parish priest, identified only as Father William by SAR, said the mob descended on the church while the Catholic children of the parish were attending catechism classes. The activists stormed the church led by some local Hindu leaders, after heated exchanges with the priest. The priest identified one of the attackers as Keshavamurthy, the district secretary of the local unit of Bajrang Dal.

No arrests have been made in the attack. Police have boosted security for the church.

According to local Catholic leaders, the Bajrang Dal group disrupted a carol singing program last Christmas. The Catholic community here believes that the Sunday incident could have been averted had the police taken action against those responsible for the earlier attack. Vijayanagar police inspector Marikale Gowda has promised to take action against the assailants.

In a press release, the Global Council of Indian Christians condemned the attack and demanded action against the culprits. The council also urged the Karnataka Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, "to show courage to put down with iron hand the religious fundamentalists trying to destroy the peace and tranquility in Karnataka."

"We demand the state government to persuade the central government, which has declared a war against terrorism, to ban Bajrang Dal and other Sangh Parivar activists perpetrating swadeshi terrorism in India," the press release added. Several Catholic associations and other Christian organizations have also condemned the attack on the church.