Indian Christians targeted by fundamentalists
Protestant and Catholic groups have asked the government to intervene in stopping religious tension and conflict in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The secretary general of the Church of North India, Enos Das Pradhan, sent a letter to Vice-Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, reporting attacks made against Christians occurring at "regular intervals".
Fr Donald De Souza, the vice-secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference currently visiting the area, said the situation is "frightening".
For some weeks several Hindu fundamentalist groups have organized anti-Christian demonstrations and protests, creating an atmosphere of tension. The fundamentalist groups have attacked schools, set cars on fire, harmed priests and have burned images of Jesus, priests and local bishops.
Conflict first erupted on 11 January when a nine year-old Hindu girl was found killed and raped in a Jhabua school bathroom. The school is run by Catholic nuns.
Two days later, a Catholic parish priest, two assistant parish priests, the school principal and two prefects were stopped and arrested by police, as a group of fundamentalists began accusing the Christians and the Catholic Church of the crime.
The bishop of Jhabua, while on visit in the region, tried to make peace between the conflicting parties while the minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh made accusations against the missionaries, blaming them for the crime.
The Indian Bishops' Conference protested against "unscrupulous acts", expressing grave concern over "threats to the Christian community's very existence in Jhabua".
The Bishops urged some Protestant groups not to focus so much on conversions (proselytism), but on acts of social justice and charity.
Monsignor Chacko Thottumarick, the bishop of Jhabua, said, "the (Catholic) Church does not lend special attention to outward conversions. The prime objective is that of spiritual, moral conversions and social improvements to the lives of people."
Jhabua Christians targeted by fundamentalists (Asianews.it 10/2/04)
Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples - Urgent Appeal
Hindu leader points finger at Pope on conversions (24/11/03)
Catholic Bishops Conference of India
11 Feb 2004