Archive of October 11, 2008

Indian archbishop pleas for prime minister to pay attention to attacks on Christians

Bhopal, India, Oct 11, 2008 (CNA) - With the intensification of violence against Christians in India, the chairman of the Catholic Council of Bishops in India, Archbishop Leo Cornelio, called upon the country’s Prime Minister to not only focus on the attacks in the states of Orissa and Karnataka, but also the increasing violence in Madhya Pradesh.


The archbishop’s letter, dated Wednesday, opens by commending the Prime Minister’s decision to convene a meeting to discuss “the grave situation in Orissa and Karnataka” due to a “series of murderous attacks on Christian communities and their Churches.”  While the prelate notes that the attacks in those particular states are violent, he requests that the head of state pay attention to the “happenings” in Madhya Pradesh that “are also equally serious.”


“From the day the [Bajrang dal] BJP came into power in Madhya Pradesh in the year 2003 minorities in Madhya Pradesh have been subjected to [a] series of violent attacks on shops of Muslims and churches of Christians at many places.  At many places violent attacks were made on the members of the two communities causing them grave injuries,” writes the archbishop.


The letter goes on to give examples of the violence against religion in the region.  “In some cases churches more than 80 years old were set on fire. Even the Nuns at various places including Indore, Ujjain, Bhopal etc. were not spared.”


Though these incidents continue to occur, the government has not intervened. 


Archbishop Cornelio explains that when the violent attacks have occurred, the “police and administration remained mute spectators” or even “helped the miscreants in their nefarious acts.”  In hope of receiving protection, Indian bishops “have been repeatedly drawing the attention of the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police seeking their intervention. But our attempts did not yield any positive and effective results.”


Greater protection is needed for the security of the Christian people, Archbishop Cornelio insisted, pointing out that recently the president of VHP released a statement “hailing attacks on Orissa Christians.”  He has also warned that such attacks “will continue with greater intensity and determination.”  Because of this, the archbishop concluded, “we again request you to include the incidents of Madhya Pradesh on the agenda of the forth coming meeting of the National Integration Council.”


Between April 2004 and September 2008, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, there have been nearly 111 attacks.  Dozens of families have lost their homes and more than 20 churches have been burnt or desecrated.  In one instance, an 11 year-old girl was raped and murdered in the bathroom of a Catholic Church.  Several of the attacks were witnessed by the police, who stood by watching.


A larger survey of the violence within the five states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, reveals a devastating picture: 149 churches have been burned and 4,640 homes set ablaze, leaving 53,000 Christians homeless, 18 000 wounded and more than 50 dead.

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Poland to celebrate ‘Pope Day 2008’

Rome, Italy, Oct 11, 2008 (CNA) - All the dioceses in Poland will celebrate “Pope Day 2008” this Sunday, October 12. An initiative with spiritual, cultural, and social character, each annual event addresses an aspect of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on the subjects of the “family of nations” and the “life of society.”

SIR reports that the Saint Nicholas Foundation and the New Millennium foundation of the Polish Bishops’ Conference are both promoting the initiative and have scheduled a series of events for the weekend.

This year’s theme is “John Paul II: educator of the young.”

The organizers explained that the theme emphasizes “the care of Pope Wojtyla for younger generations” and also communicates “the trust which the Pope placed in the young.”

An international meeting dedicated to the event’s theme is scheduled for Saturday. Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will participate in the meeting.

The “Totus Tuus” prize will also be awarded there.

On Sunday Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz will celebrate a Mass in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow.

At the close of the event, Polish television station 1 TVP will broadcast a message from Pope Benedict XVI.

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Amnesty International condemns ‘widening persecution’ of Catholics in Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct 11, 2008 (CNA) - The global humanitarian group Amnesty International on Thursday issued a statement condemning the government of Vietnam’s “widening persecution” of Vietnamese Catholics who are demonstrating to secure the return of confiscated church lands.

Amnesty International, after noting the intimidation, harassment, and even violence state-sponsored groups have shown towards the protesters and the Church, urged the Vietnamese government to “end its intimidation and attacks against Catholics.” The group also warned that senior church officials could be at risk of arrest.

Catholics began their protests in December 2007 seeking the return of several properties including the former papal nunciature in Hanoi and also property formerly belonging to the Redemptorists.

Negotiations between the Church and the government stalled in February. In August and September thousands of people, some from other parts of the country, joined in peaceful protests at the properties. At the end of September authorities had sealed off the disputed areas.

Amnesty International said “widening persecution” has followed the Vietnamese authorities’ crackdown on Catholics’ peaceful protests in Hanoi in September.

The organization details in a new briefing paper how Catholics are increasingly physically and verbally attacked and intimidated.

The report is based on interviews with church groups, journalists and parishioners in
the country.

“And they shout bad words about our mothers and fathers, and say things like “kill the archbishop” and “kill the priests” a young Catholic woman told Amnesty International. “Last Sunday evening when I came from church, there were maybe 400-500 people there, many in blue shirts, shouting slogans and holding banners.”

Saying the state media’s campaign against the Catholic protesters is “intensifying,” Amnesty International reported how counter-protesters and state-sponsored groups are gathering outside the Thai Ha parish in Hanoi, harassing and intimidating church leaders and parishioners.

“At least one Catholic church outside of Hanoi has been attacked by stone-throwing gangs,” the group said.

“Authorities are also using criminal law to stifle free expression of opinion,” Amnesty international continued, stating that four protesters have been detained and charged while numerous protesters have been called in for questioning in recent days.

“Amnesty International believes that senior church officials are at risk of arrest,” the group commented.

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