February 01, 2006

Bishop Assaulted In India

Just a reminder that Christians are attacked by many different groups.

Cardinal Ivan Dias condemned a "violent attack" suffered by a bishop and some priests of the Vasai Diocese on Sunday and called on the authorities to take action.

"We are deeply shocked to learn of the violent attack made yesterday by certain unruly elements on the Most Reverend Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai and the priests who were accompanying him on a very praiseworthy humanitarian mission," said the archbishop of Bombay in a statement.

The statement was published today by the bishops' conference of India.

The Vasai bishop and priests were attending the inauguration of a boarding school for tribal youth at Gosali in Mokhada Taluka, in the Thane district, in the state of Maharashtra.

Cardinal Dias said that Bishop Dabre and the priests were pelted with stones. One of the priests, Father Brendon Furtado, suffered an ear injury.

The incident took place when Bishop Dabre, 60, along with 10 priests, nuns and social workers, went to the village to inaugurate the Suryodaya Ashram, a boarding school for 60 tribal boys and girls, the SAR News reported.

Just before the inauguration ceremony, 40 to 50 suspected members of the Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, organizations of the fundamentalist Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, began to throw stones.

They were under the false impression that the Catholic bishop went there to convert students, SAR said. Other sources reported a much higher figure of attackers.


A visibly shaken Bishop Dabre said: "It was the most horrible experience as stones were pelted in all directions in and around the building. There were about 200 parishioners within the building and outside, who had gathered for the inauguration of the ashram." They feared for their lives, he added.

"The fundamentalists who attacked us do not know that we have come to serve the poor tribals and we are opposed to forceful conversion," Bishop Dabre observed.

For his part, the archbishop of Bombay added in his statement: "Such a barbaric and unwarranted outburst of violence is indeed a disgrace to our Indian culture of respect and tolerance, and it sadly reveals a serious lack of a sense of civilized democracy in the politico-religious groups which instigated it.

"It is particularly painful that the incident occurred on the eve of the assassination anniversary of our beloved father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of 'ahimsa' [nonviolence], which was the weapon with which he fought and won independence for a secular India."

Archbishop Dias added: "I am confident that the authorities concerned will take prompt action against the perpetrators of the criminal deed and will adopt such corrective measures so as to dissuade the repetition of similar episodes which seriously endanger communal harmony and wreck the secular fabric of our dear motherland."


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