Bishops of India condemn wave of violence against Christians and call for religious tolerance

The Catholic Bishops of India are voicing concern for a new wave of violence against Christians and calling on civil authorities to intervene and urging people to work to build religious tolerance and harmony.

The Fides News Agency reports that August 26 in the central eastern state of Orissa, a group of Hindu militants attacked and desecrated the parish church of Our Lady of Charity in the village of Rakia also destroying the homes of several Christian families near the parish.

According to Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, the attack on the parish was organized and premeditated. 

The bishops issued a statement which included the report of the pastor, Fr. Alphonse Baliarsingh, who said 300 fundamentalists broke down the parish door with clubs and destroyed a statue of our Lady, a Crucifix and other religious statues.  The assailants made a bonfire with the Bible, liturgical books and other sacred objects, and they destroyed the tabernacle.

Catholics in Kerala, south west India, have been deeply shaken after a priest, Father Job Chittilappilly, 71, was murdered his home next to the parish church of Our Lady of Grace in the town of Thuruthiparambu.

 An investigation by local police revealed that the body was discovered early in the morning and that the priest had been stabbed several times. The motive for the crime is still unclear but it would appear to be an execution in cold blood.

The local Bishop, Bishop James Pazhayattil of Irinjalakuda diocese, contacted by Fides said “Father Job was attacked and killed while he was praying the rosary before going to celebrate the 6.30 Mass. Our diocesan community is still deeply shaken and we have no idea who would want to kill him”.

Local church sources say that Father Job visited their homes, including Hindus, but he never tried to convert them by force and he was always made welcome, the Bishop said.

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian places and persons. 

Pallottine Father John Sunderam, parish priest in the archdiocese of Ranchi, in Jharkhand state is still in coma after being seriously wounded by band of criminals who broke into his church on August 22 in an apparent robbery.

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