Reprisals Against Christians Feared in Nepal

Crime Was Committed by Muslim Extremists

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KATHMANDU, Nepal, SEPT. 1, 2004 ( Christian churches in Kathmandu, Nepal, fear violence after the attack against two mosques in the nation’s capital.

The assault on the mosques was in response to the death of 12 Nepalese citizens by Muslim fundamentalists in Iraq.

Protesters of the crime also «accuse the United States of being responsible for the death of the hostages because they were working for the Americans in Iraq,» explained Father Justin, a Nepalese priest of Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Kathmandu to AsiaNews.

The United States is seen as a Christian nation, and for this reason «people are blaming the Christians for what has happened to the hostages,» and the Christian churches in the Nepalese capital are also in danger of being the target of vengeance.

«We are not going outside the parish; the authorities told us it is dangerous to do so. Last night, many people surrounded the parish buildings. Even several Protestant churches were surrounded by demonstrators,» he said.

Regardless of whether one is a Catholic or a member of another religion, «we are all Nepalese…We all share in the pain of the families of those killed. We protest against the brutality of the inhumane act. Religion has nothing to do with what happened,» the priest stressed.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Kathmandu, upon hearing the news of the killing on Tuesday of 12 Nepalese workers, kidnapped on Aug. 20 in Iraq by the Ansar al-Sunna Muslim extremist group.

On Wednesday, John Paul II energetically condemned the «barbarous execution» of the 12 Nepalese citizens, adding that in Iraq there is no break in the «chain of senseless violence which impedes a rapid return to civil coexistence.»

A curfew has been imposed in Kathmandu given the disturbances, including attacks on two mosques that were set on fire by a mob of young people.

The mosques, Jama Masjid and Takie Masjid, are situated close to each in the heart of the capital city and near a police station. Jama is the main Muslim mosque in Kathmandu. Government buildings and employment agencies have also been attacked.

The protesters accuse the authorities of Kathmandu of not having acted in time to obtain the hostages’ release.

The Nepalese government has decided to open an investigation on the operation the manpower recruitment firm that contracted the Nepalese workers. The families of the victims said that the latter were in Iraq illegally and against their will. They had signed contracts to work in Jordan but were deprived of their passports and sent to Iraq.

Nepal is composed of 25.5 million inhabitants; 86.2 percent of Nepal is Hindu, 7.8 percent is Buddhist and 3.8 percent are Muslim. There are 500,000 Christians, 6,000 of whom are Catholics.

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