All Christian institutions are now in danger because mobs of Hindu radicals are roaming the streets, breaking down doors and smashing windows, including Christian homes.
Another nun from Bubaneshwar’s Social Centre was gang raped by groups of Hindu extremists before the building housing the facility was set on fire. Sources also told AsiaNews that elsewhere one priest was wounded and two other were abducted. The list of violent anti-Christian acts is thus getting longer.
For the past two days the state of Orissa (north-east India) has been racked by violence following the assassination of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxanananda Saraswati.
Churches, community and pastoral centres, convents and orphanages have been attacked yesterday and today by mobs shouting “Kill the Christians; destroy their institutions.”
Tensions in the state are in fact still running high. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has planned demonstrations for today and tomorrow. Gangs of Hindu fanatics from the VHP as well as Sangh Parivar are roaming roads and villages, setting up road blocks, sending their own members on raids of plunder and violence.
According to firsthand accounts the archdiocese’s social centre was attacked and torched. Before that the attackers raped Sister Meena, a nun working at the centre.
The local pastoral centre, which has escaped destruction in last December’s violence, is now a total wreck. Father Thomas, who ran the facility, is in hospital with serious head injuries.
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Ajay Singh also said that a nun was burnt alive in an orphanage she ran in the district of Bargarh.
Elsewhere Sisters of Mother Teresa have been attacked by stone-throwing Hindu militants with one seriously injured.
All Christian institutions are now in danger because mobs of Hindu radicals are roaming the streets, breaking down doors and smashing windows, including in some cases Christian homes. Many priests and nuns have had to escape.
In Bubaneshwar Hindu militants stoned the Archbishop’s residence, but did not dare invade the place because of police presence.
In Phulbani the parish church and the home of local clergy were attacked and set on fire. All local priests fled and found refuge in the homes of some of members of the local congregation.
The youth hostel that houses students who study in Phulbani has also been torched.
Some missionaries of Charity who were attending a health course in Brahamanigoan were blocked for hours in the village.
Elsewhere nuns left their convent finding shelter in some school buildings.
Hindu nationalism, which is fomenting attacks against Christians, is like a cancer that is undermining inter-communal coexistence, which is the foundation of Indian society. The roots of this nationalism, expressed especially through the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteers' Organisation, are in Hitler’s Nazism.
For the archbishop of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar, whose priests have had to flee mobs of fanatics roaming around looking for Christians, the Cross has set deep roots in Orissa. “The Church,” he said, “will be the light for generations to come in Orissa.”
Mgr Raphael Cheenath, Verbite, archbishop of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar (Orissa), described to AsiaNews the situation of the faithful under his care after two days of attacks by radical Hindus against churches, social and pastoral centres, parishes and convents.
“Father Thomas, director of our pastoral centre, is hiding in the forest,” the archbishop said. “From there, tears in his eyes and sorrow in his heart, he saw it go up in smoke. Just before the attack he phoned me and I told him: ‘Pray and be vigilant.’ But when he saw mobs of people coming towards the centre he had to flee for his life. The pastoral centre had cost more than 15 million rupees.”
The new wave of destructions comes in the wake of the assassination of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxanananda last Saturday (23 August), which was blamed on Christians.
“We Christians refuse violence. We condemn every act of violence and terrorism. But we are also against taking the law into our own hands,” said the bishop.
“As soon as we heard about Swami Laxamananda Saraswati’s assassination I issued a public statement strongly condemning the dastardly attack and murders. I called on everyone to remain peaceful and in harmony. We want relations of friendship with all communities.”
News of more violence are still coming in from around the diocese—a chapel torched in Sundergarh, a van owned by nuns burnt in G. Udayagir, etc.
“We feel totally abandoned. This morning the authorities sent three policemen to watch over the nuns’ convent and the bishop’s residence. But they don’t even have a stick to protect us from the fury of the mob!”
For Monsignor Cheenath anti-Christian (and anti-Muslim) violence is rooted in the ideology that developed around the RSS (which inspires other fanatical groups linked to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party).
“Golwalkar, a founding member of the RSS, in a book that he wrote borrowed ideas from Hitler’s Nazism. His admiration for Hitler was well-known. He rejected the idea that India was a secular nation, and posited instead that it was a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu system), which a great of influence over much of the Indian population.” But in a Hindu Rashtra there is no place for other religions.
“In Orissa we are victimised because of the Cross,” Monsignor Cheenath explained. “More than 94 per cent of the population is Hindu. Christianity is practiced by only 2.4 per cent of the population. There have been some conversions though among Tribals, who have often been abused by the people of the cities.”
“Here the majority would like to eliminate the Cross, but its roots are too deep and the cancer of nationalism will not prevail. The Church will be the light for many generations to come.”
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