ASIA/INDIA - Attack on a Catholic school, “chain of protests” by Christians in Karnataka

Belgaum (Agenzia Fides) – The Catholic School of Divine Providence in Tilakwadi, in the Diocese of Belgaum, in the Indian State of Karnataka, was attacked by vandals who shattered the windows and and damaged the structure. The violence, which occurred during the evening of 22 February, created panic among the Canossian sisters who run it, the students and parents. However, no one was injured. The local Church was immediately notified and passed on the information to police. Bishop Peter Machado of Belgaum, expressed his great concern for what happened. This is the second attack on a Catholic school in the region in the last month. On 17 January the same thing happened to the school and convent of St Joseph in Camp. The Vicar General of the Diocese of Belgaum, Fr Lucio Mascarenhas, declared to Fides: “The police are investigating. We are alarmed because we fear that this could be a reaction by Hindu fundamentalist groups after the protests by Christians in Karnataka in recent weeks. However the faithful will not be stopped by injustice and falsities”. In fact, the local Church, together with Christians of other confessions, has organised a peaceful protest march to be held on 28 February in Belgaum, in which Bishop Peter Machado, and Bishops from other Christian communities will attend with thousands of faithful and people from other religions. The protesters intend to publicly reject Judge B. K. Somasekhara's report which denies the responsibility of Hindu extremist groups in the anti-Christian violence carried out in Karnataka in 2008 (see Fides 1/2/2011). “Christians in Karnataka,” explains Fr Mascarenhas to Fides, “have planned a chain of protests: first in Mangalore, then in Bangalore, now in Belgaum, in the next few weeks in other cities around the State, in a way to gain the authorities' attention and public opinion”. The protesters will present a list of demands to the civil authorities of Belgaum, covering several points: the urgent need to guarantee protection and security for Christians; rejection of the Somasekhara Commission's Report; a demand to halt the proceedings in which more than 330 Christians have been charged (accused of acts of violence); the need to entrust responsibility for investigations to the federal “Central Bureau of Investigation”; a demand for compensation for the victims and Christian buildings destroyed in the wave of violence in 2008. The Christians in India have recently published a new report, edited by Judge Michael Saldanha (see Fides 24/2/2011), which establishes the truth about the acts of violence and which will be presented to the Federal Government. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/2/2011)

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