Hindu Fundamentalist Violence Doesn´t Spare Catholics

India Swept by Wave of Interreligious Attacks

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NEW DELHI, India, MARCH 5, 2002 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- Recent outbreaks of religious fundamentalist violence in India haven´t left Catholic communities unscathed.



On March 2 in Khurda village, Gujarat, two priests and two lay Catholics were attacked by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists when they were on their way to the police station to report an attack on a Church-run school on Khurda. RSS is India´s leading Hindu radical group.

Divine Word Mission Father Nicholas Martiz and an Ashram Parish priest, Father George Bhuriya, along with two laymen, were attacked by an armed group of RSS supporters.

Father Martiz was taken to a hospital with head injuries. The other men received minor injuries. Earlier in the day an eight-member RSS group descended on the Church-run Mahatma Gandhi school terrorizing the students and staff and demanding that the building be closed in observance of a national strike.

The strike was called by Hindu political parties to protest the Feb. 27 train tragedy in Ghodra, Gujarat state, when Hindu-Muslim clashes led to the death of 60 passengers who were burned alive. Rioting in recent days has left almost 500 people dead.

Also on March 2, about 60 kilometers from Godhra, RSS activists torched a Divine Word Mission station in Sanjeli.

Meanwhile, India´s Christians encourage people of good will to unite in order to isolate fanatic fundamentalists and to restore peace. A March 1 statement by the All India Council called for this "madness to stop."

For their part, the Catholic bishops of India, meeting in Jalandhar, called on the government to adopt measures to prevent the violence from spreading.

Archbishop Cyril Baselios Malanchuaruvil, president of the bishops´ conference, said Monday that the bishops "held a day of fasting and prayer for all the victims of the violence."

They also went on pilgrimage to the Golden Temple, the Sikhs´ holiest place, as an expression of the conference´s theme this year, "The Church in Dialogue."

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in India for brief visit, also addressed the bishops´ conference today.