ASIA/INDIA - “Renounce your Christian faith, reconvert to Hinduism or you will die”: Hindu fanatics threaten Catholic villagers in west India

Thursday, 10 February 2005

New Delhi (Fides Service) - Catholics in the tribal village of Rajura, Amravati district in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, are terrified after an attack by Hindu extremists on 7 February followed by threats of death unless they deny their Christian faith and embrace Hinduism. The village church was attacked and religious personnel threatened.
The village is the only one in this district which has its own municipal administration. The Catholic families in the village, descendants of people who came here from Madhya Pradesh, have live in peace here undisturbed for centuries. “The villagers are all Catholics, mostly poor farm workers but they are devout and practising people” Bishop Edwin Colaco of Amravati told Fides adding that the situation is very serious and the village is in real danger.
According to the Bishop the attackers may have been instigated by recent speeches by “munni” Hindu religious leaders in Ayodhya, known for a years’ old dispute between local Muslims and Hindus. Eyewitnesses said the munni called on the people to make Adivasi Christians re-convert to Hinduism and to “massacre all Adivasi Christians” who refused to reconvert.
Local sources told Fides that the gang of Hindu fanatics drove into the village on jeeps, brandishing weapons and launching bloodcurdling cries, but the people were away working in the fields. The Bishop wrote letters to the Maharashtra civil authorities and the Internal Minister of India denouncing the incident and calling for government protection for the people of Rajura barricaded in their homes fearing more attacks. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/2/2005 righe 28 parole 289)