Indian Priest Beaten; Christians Afraid This Christmas

Bishop Urges Faithful to Withstand "Acts of Terror"

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JABALPUR, India, DEC. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A group of unidentified attackers badly beat a priest in central India last Friday, sparking Christians of Madhya Pradesh state to appeal to authorities for protection.

Father Thomas Chirattavayalil, who works in a mission station of the Diocese of Satna in Madhya Pradesh, was attacked in the early hours of the morning by as many as a dozen assailants who arrived to his house around 2 A.M..

“As soon as I opened the door, one person hit me with a stick and I fell down,” the priest told UCANews.

Father Chirattavayalil managed to escape and took refuge in a neighboring home. He was admitted to a Church-run hospital for stitches on his head and bruising all over his body.

Bishop Matthew Vaniakizhakel of Satna condemned the attack as “most inhuman.” He told UCANews that the diocese has sought protection for Christians during Christmas.

He also urged Catholics to maintain peace. “We need to pray more to withstand such acts of terror and temptation during this Christmas specially,” the bishop said.

Since 2007, Christmas is a particular time of fear for Christians because of the death in Orissa state of Khageswar Mallick, a Hindu tribal, on Christmas day that year. Christians were blamed for the death.

A Hindu extremist group has announced that it will hold commemorative rallies this year, UCANews reported.

India has been a hotbed of religious tensions -- primarily Hindu-Christian conflict -- that heightened in 2008, when the murder of a Hindu politician was attributed to Christians. That event set off underlying tension that has existed in India for generations.