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Indian Christians suffer simultaneous attacks on churches


Bangalore, India, 15 September (ENI)

Churches in India have deplored a series of attacks on Christian places of worship in the southern state of Karnataka, and have called for measures to protect minorities in the world’s second most populous nation.

"We demand an immediate stop of the eruption of violence in different parts of the nation in the name of objecting [to] ‘conversion’," the National Council of Churches in India said on 15 September after alleged Hindu militants attacked Roman Catholic, Protestant and evangelical churches and prayer halls during Sunday services the previous day.

Police said gangs of youths, 20 to 25 in number, had barged into the church centres and destroyed sacred articles and costly electronic equipment and furniture, and had attacked those who confronted them.

Seven people, including two pastors and a Catholic nun, were injured, and the assailants also set ablaze two vehicles. The attackers were reported to belong to the Bajrang Dal movement, a radical Hindu group that has denounced what it says is the illegal conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expressed "shock and distress at the unprovoked attacks on Christian places of worship" in Karnataka.

Media reported that, after the attacks, hundreds of Christians in Mangalore, one of the affected cites, demonstrated in front of the churches and prayer halls, and demanded the arrest of the attackers. Police used batons and teargas to disperse protesters, and banned the assembly of five or more people in Mangalore city for three days.

"These are well-planned attacks," John S. Sadananda, principal of Karnataka Theological College in Mangalore, told Ecumenical News International.

Sadananda said there had been a steady increase in attacks on Christian targets in different parts of the state since the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose opponents say it has an extremist pro-Hindu agenda, formed a coalition government in Karnataka two years ago.

"The government had done little to investigate properly or arrest the culprits in these cases. Now, they feel emboldened," said Sadananda, who is also the chairperson of the Ecumenical Christian Centre in Bangalore.