Prelates Decry India Attacks

Remind Extremists That «Religious Violence» Is Abuse of Religion

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MUMBAI, India, SEPT. 7, 2011 ( The Episcopal Conference of India is lamenting recent outbreaks of extremist violence in the country, particularly a bombing at the High Court in Delhi today that killed at least nine.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Episcopal Conference of India, told Fides: «The bishops of India are deeply disturbed by this new act of violence and terrorism: We condemn those responsible and once again we ask all to build brotherhood and peace in the country.»

The cardinal also mentioned a church destroyed in Kerala last Sunday.

«Fortunately, these episodes are sporadic, and do not take place all over India, because Indians are people who love peace,» the cardinal said. «There are, however, some fundamentalist groups: We turn to them to recall that violence in the name of religion is an abuse of religion.»

According to Bishop Stanley Roman of Quilon, the Kerala violence is due to growing religious extremism in the region.

«In the area there is a very lively and large Catholic community,» he told Fides. «This is why we plan to build a larger church. Perhaps this project has alarmed the Hindu extremist groups that already, indirectly, seek to intimidate us. We have had, in recent years, a growth of these Hindu extremist groups in Kerala and we begin to suffer the consequences. But it is also true that, consequently, small Islamic groups are proliferating. And all this could endanger social peace and religious identity that has always characterized Kerala.»

Meanwhile in the state of Andhra Pradesh, extremist violence is being blamed on police «inactivity and neglect,» reported Aid to the Church in Need.

At the end of August, a church in Hyderabad was vandalized, with the main altar being incinerated, as well as Bibles, missals, and liturgical vestments.

The parish priest, Father John Felix, wrote an open letter to the authorities of the state, declaring that the incident occurred «on account of the inactivity and neglect of the police and other authorities.»

Father Felix described the congregation as «under constant threat.»

Churches across India continue to be overshadowed by the severe anti-Christian violence of 2007-2008.

Although that wave of violence was centered in the eastern state of Orissa, attacks on Christians and church institutions have been frequently reported in other parts of the country.

Christians in India number about 22 million, 2% of the total population.

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