Remnant News Watch
Christmas Eve Rampage Against Missionaries of Charity

Mark Alessio

(Posed March 5, 2008 The full eyewitness report of a Christmas Eve, 2007, assault by Hindu nationalist “Patriot Brigades” against Catholic hospitals and schools has been made available by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (Feb. 12, 2008). The report was filed by Brother Oscar Tete of the Missionaries of Charity. Brother Tete is the local superior of Shanti Nivas, a center which cares for those affected by leprosy, TB and other communicable diseases located deep in the forests of the Kandhamala, Orissa.

Brother Tete was making last minute Christmas purchases in the town of Phulbani on the afternoon of December 24, 2007, when he heard that churches in the village of Brahminigaon had been attacked by members of the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the “National Volunteers’ Organization,” a nationalist organization committed to preserving the spiritual and moral traditions of India and halting the conversions of Hindus. Returning to Shanti Nivas later that evening, Brother Tete found people praying in the chapel, and urged all women and children to return to their homes. Public prayers were canceled for the night. At 11:30 pm, a group of government “Home Guards,” armed only with heavy bamboo canes, arrived at the center.

At 10 pm on Christmas night, electrical power to the center was cut, as was the telephone line. Going outside, Brother Tete and the others observed a large mob approaching, “abusing Christians in the foulest language.” The mob split into two groups. One group went to the grotto where it smashed and set fire to the statue of the Virgin Mary and Nativity Scene. The other group forced their way into the chapel, where they destroyed the altar and Christmas decorations, setting them on fire. They also destroyed and burned “every single statue and paintings on the walls of the chapel, altar, vestry and inner rooms, including copies of the Holy Bible, the Cross and images of Lord Jesus Christ.”

The mob then proceeded to trash the center’s Residence, office, patient ward, kitchen, guest room, driver’s room, storage room and garage, destroying windows, toilets, water pipes and electrical fixtures in the process. Crucifixes were pulled from walls and destroyed. After that, the group made its way to another area of the center, where it destroyed the center’s medical stores and expensive medical equipment. The center’s animals, including rabbits and goats, were either killed or stolen by the mob.

Brother Tete and other members of the Shanti Nivas Center, who hid behind a boundary wall during the assault, spent the next three nights hiding in the forest “for fear we would be killed.” During the daytime, they would return to the center to care for patients, where they were given food by local villagers, “the government not helping us at all.”

In his February 5, 2008 report to the Phulbani police, Brother Tete states:

We still live in daily fear of mortal danger to our life, and injury to our person. We have not been given any security. We also do not know the fate of our oral complaints to senior officers. We also do not know if any of the assailants, who have been identified by us and by the villagers who were eye witnesses, have been arrested by the police.

Comment: This rabid assault on the Shanti Nivas Center is just another day’s work for India’s Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) “nationalist” organization.

On October 15, 2004, Asia News reported a press conference held by President John Dayal of the All India Catholic Union, who claimed that violent assaults against Catholics during the preceding months were mostly the work of the RSS. These assaults included an attack on seven nuns from the Missionaries of Charity on the outskirts of Calcutta, and the murder of Father Job Chittilappilly of Thuruthiparambu, Kerala, who was murdered while praying the Rosary in his room, and who had been the recipient of threats on account of his pastoral work among Hindu families.

In March of 2005, parliamentarian Francis George of the Kerala Congress party declared that "various murderous attacks had taken place in Kerala in recent times," and said that RSS activists were behind most of the violent occurrences. One of these attacks took place in February, 2005, when six theology students from the Asian Biblical Seminary were attacked by RSS members. Also in March of 2005, a group of 25 RSS members assaulted a crowd of people who were viewing The Passion of The Christ in Kerala’s (non-Catholic) Kanai Church on the night before Easter, beating and injuring a number of them. "The RSS members did not even spare women and children," said Sajan K George, the national governor of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

As of March, 2007, seven Indian states have enacted anti-conversion laws (i.e., “Freedom of Religion Laws”). Although these laws are, technically, laws against forced conversions, Hindu extremists invoke them to justify the persecution of Catholics and Protestants. On March 1, 2007, Compass Direct News, an agency which chronicles Christian persecution, reported:

Hindu extremists commonly use anti-conversion legislation to falsely accuse Christians of converting people through force or allurement; thus they justify attacks on Christians or deflect prosecution away from themselves by pressing charges of “forcible conversion” without any evidence.

Christians and political analysts in India link the enactment of anti-conversion laws to the Hindu nationalistic agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of numerous Hindu extremist groups. The BJP uses anti-conversion law as a tool to institutionalize the ideology of Hindu nationalism, known as Hindutva, which envisions a “Hindu nation” where the religious minorities are allowed to live but in subordination to the majority community.

According to the extremist view, Christianity is a foreign faith imposed on India during British colonial rule. Thus, missionaries are portrayed as “Western” provocateurs who conspire to convert India’s poor and illiterate people either through bribes or intimidation.

In February of 2007, Himachal Pradesh in northwest India became the seventh Indian state to enact an anti-conversion law. The law requires that a person wishing to convert to another religion give a 30-day notice to the authorities or face a fine. Conversion of a minor, woman, Dalit [member of the “untouchable caste”] or tribal person [aborigine] can result in larger fines and imprisonment of up to three years. Because the law forbids “inducement,” those Catholics or Protestants who desire to feed and clothe the hungry run the risk of “breaking the law.”

Dr. Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, said, “This law severely undercuts the fundamental right to freedom of religion, particularly for exploited Dalits and tribals. The assent of the governor amounts to an endorsement of the discrimination and persecution against religious minorities in Himachal Pradesh state.”


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