Indian Catholic school ransacked by Hindu militants

Sixteen Catholic schools in the northern Indian city of Lucknow remained closed yesterday following an attack by extremists who ransacked the local Loreto convent school.

Some other English-language schools were also closed to express their solidarity with the besieged Catholics, the Australian reports.

Security personnel were deployed around all missionary schools alongside civilian police to guard against any renewal of the violence of last weekend, when militants of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth branch of the conservative Bharatiya Janata political party, reportedly stormed into the school buildings and destroyed property.

The provocation came from a newspaper report about a prayer session that the school conducted four days earlier, according to the Indian Catholic. The report termed the program a "special occult session" and said several girls fainted at the session and needed "medical attention."

The militants' actions have horrified authorities, and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has ordered a full-scale inquiry.

Loreto Convent supporters held a protest meeting yesterday at the gates to the school. Christian leaders, parents, teachers and students condemned the BJYM attack.

Fr Paul Rodrigues said the manner in which the militants had attacked the chapel on the campus indicated "a larger conspiracy" behind the action.

"We are deeply concerned about the security and safety of Catholic institutions across the state," he said.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishop Conference of India, Fr Babu Joseph, also told Indian agency, CNN-IBN, that there was no harm in the spiritual healing session conducted by the school.

"There is nothing untoward about it, nothing superstitious about it. A person who experienced inner healing came to share his experiences with the (school's) girls," said Fr Babu Joseph.

But as a warning note, Fr Joseph added that in future the schools might have to think twice before conducting such sessions.

Christians up in arms after Hindu attack (Australian, 13/9/06)
High-level probe into Convent incident (IBN Live, 12/9/06)
Bishops condemn attack on convent school (Indian Catholic 12/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Loreto Convent, Lucknow

Indian Catholic leaders welcome anti-conversion bill rejection (CathNews, 24/5/06)

Loreto may re-open today (Times Now 12/9/06)

13 Sep 2006