Indian Bishops Condemn Attack on Mother Teresa’s Missionaries

Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists Demonstrate Solidarity

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NEW DELHI, SEPT. 27, 2004 ( The bishop’s conference in India firmly condemned the attacks on Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists in the Indian state of Kerala.

«We forcefully condemn the two attacks against the Missionaries of Charity which occurred yesterday (Sunday) in Kerala. We are very worried by the recrudescence of Hindu fundamentalist groups seeking political space,» said Father Babu Joseph Karakombil, the conference spokesman to the Fides News Service.

«But we have received the solidarity of the institutions, civil organizations and numerous Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religious groups,» he stressed.

The attacks took place in the town of Pantheerankave, north of Cochin in the state of Kerala, southern India. The town is a shanty-town inhabited by native Indians without caste.

The first incident occurred at midday when a group of the missionary sisters visited the town to make the usual distribution of food. Some families were asking the missionaries for help when a group of five individuals attacked their car with bars and chains. During the attack they repeated slogans of Hindu nationalist ideology.

Two sisters and the driver were wounded.

Responding to the incident, another group of missionaries arrived and they were also attacked by 30 individuals.

The mother superior was struck on the head, and another sister and two brothers were wounded.

The fundamentalists tried to make the nuns get out of their vehicle, but did not succeed. All the wounded have been hospitalized. One of the nuns is seriously ill confirmed the Fides News Service.

The opposition of some of the local women impeded the situation from getting worse, AsiaNews reported. After visiting the missionaries, Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil of Calicut, said that he would submit the attack to the state administration.

Sister Angelette, superior of the Missionaries of Charity in Kerala, stressed that the purpose of the visits of the missionaries is to help «the poorest of the poor, marginalized people, in the most absolute indigence.»

We “make no distinctions of caste or creed,» she explained.

Their work is regarded with suspicion as an attempt at conversions, said the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions.

The police have arrested nine of the assailants, while the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party and other groups have denied responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, according to the missionaries’ account, “the aggressors were shouting slogans like ‘long live the BJP.’»

Christian associations and movements from the whole of Kerala have issued a joint statement to express their indignation and preoccupation over the incident which they severely condemn, and defend the work of Mother Teresa’s Religious.

Father Babu Joseph Karakombil believes that the assailants’ intention is «to attack the social harmony that has always reigned in the state of Kerala.»

He described as a «worrying sign» the murder of Father Job Chittilappily a month ago and this attack against Mother Teresa’s missionaries who have always been “well regarded in the whole of India.»

Christians represent approximately 2 percent of the one billion inhabitants of India, Catholics numbering 17 million. Hindus represent 80 percent of Indians.

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