Attacks on Catholics in Gujarat Are Protested

Bishop of Ahmedabad Calls for Justice in India

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NEW DELHI, India, MARCH 11, 2002 ( A bishop recently took to the streets to counter fundamentalists´ attacks against Catholics in his diocese in India.

Bishop Stanislaus Fernandes of Ahmedabad urgently left the bishops´ conference meeting in Jalandhar to return to his diocese because of rioting in the state of Gujarat.

On March 5 he led a peace march in Ahmedabad against attacks by fundamentalists on the Sanjeli Catholic mission, the SAR news agency reported.

The Vatican agency Fides stated that on March 2 in Khurda village, two Catholic priests and two lay Catholics were attacked by the Association of National Volunteers (RSS) activists, Hindu nationalists, when they were on their way to the police station to report an attack on a Church-run school on Khurda.

Father Nicholas Martiz, a Divine Word novice master; Catholic Ashram parish priest Father George Bhuriya; and a parishioner and driver were attacked by an armed group of RSS supporters.

Father Martiz suffered head injuries and was taken to a hospital. The other men received minor injuries.

Earlier in the day an eight-member RSS group descended on the Mahatma Ghandi school of the Catholic mission terrorizing the students and staff and demanding that the school be closed to keep a national strike.

The strike was called by Hindu political parties to protest against the Feb. 27 train tragedy in Ghodra, Gujarat state, when Hindu-Muslim clashes led to the death of 60 passengers, who were burned alive.

Also on March 2, about 60 kilometers from Godhra, a Divine Word Mission station in Sanjeli was torched and the priests were injured by RSS activists in the wake of the communal riot in the state.

More than 2,500 Christians from the city participated in the rally organized by the Citizens´ Forum, demanding immediate arrest of the anti-social elements involved in the riots and in the attack on a priest in Sanjeli, Gujarat. Citizens´ Forum is an organization consisting of human rights activists and concerned citizens.

Bishop Fernandes condemned the attack and appealed to the state authorities to bring the culprits to justice.

According to sources, the state unit of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights would write to President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee urging them to call for an immediate halt to the carnage in Gujarat.

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