Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Karnataka, a priest and four Christians are beaten

A group of Hindu fundamentalists yesterday set upon a Carmelite priest and four Christians who were with him waiting to undergo medical tests, accusing them of wanting to convert the local population of Karnataka (Southern India) to Christianity.

Currently all five have been hospitalized suffering from severe shock: doctors say they are badly bruised and have given them a seven day prognosis.

The attack took place in the waiting room of Surgeon Hospital in Kundapura, where Fr. Sylvester Pereira (see photo) together with fr. Joyson Saldanha, fr. John Pradeep and community cook Mukunk Bhandary were waiting for a medical check up. All four were accompanied by a neighbour, Valerian D’Silva.

While they were waiting, the five were subjected to insults from four Hindu nationalists, who accused them of attempting to convert the local population to Christianity by illegal means.

The accusations passed to violence when the assailers grabbed Fr. Pereira by the throat and threw him down a flight of stairs. They then jumped on him, kicking and punching him.

The other Christians came to the priest’s aid but were violently beaten: D’Silva lost a few of his teeth. The miscreants shoved them into a waiting auto rickshaw and forcibly took them directly to the local police station.

They complained that that the victims were caught them in the process of converting people.

Initially, the police believed their version and did not allow the helpless victims neither to seek help from others, nor to lodge their own complaint. It’s only when the local parish priest Fr Anthony Lobo intervened and the local police circle inspector Valentine D'Souza arrived, the things began to fall in place.

The assailants who understood they had no escape, confessed to their crime, but tried to excuse themselves under the pretext of mistaken identity of the priest.

An FIR was lodged immediately against the assailants

The Southern state of Karnataka has a strong local Christian presence. It was in this State that last year the first Indian Catholic State School was opened; it was also here that June 22nd last the great march against anti Christian violence was held.

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