cathedral torched in central India
Indo-Asian News Service
Bhopal, Sep 19 (IANS) A 150-year-old church in Madhya Pradesh's
Jabalpur town was set on fire Thursday night in continuing
attacks against Christian institutions in certain parts of
the country by right-wing Hindu groups.
The incident led to all Christian missionary schools and colleges
in the state being closed Friday as a mark of protest.
The altar and statues inside the 150-year-old St. Peter and
St. Paul Cathedral in the cantonment area of Jabalpur, about
300 km from the state capital, were burnt in the fire Thursday
night, police said. The church was closed at the time.
Parish priests told the police that the two entered by breaking
the glass panes of the door and set fire to the cathedral
altar. The altar, statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the
carpet were damaged. However, fire fighters were alerted and
the blaze was soon doused.
"The sisters staying in the building adjoining the boundary
wall of the cathedral spotted the duo fleeing the spot on
a motorcycle but could not see their faces since it was dark,"
a police official said.
All missionary schools and colleges in Jabalpur, famous for
marble rocks, were closed to protest the incident.
Members of the Christian community shouted slogans and demanded
the culprits' arrest. They blocked Polytechnic road for several
"Tension prevails in Sadar (Cantonment) locality where
the church is located and some youths have vandalized few
shops," a police official said.
"A complaint has been lodged against unidentified people
in the cantonment police station," Collector Hariranjan
Rao told IANS on phone.
A delegation of the Christian community members headed by
Bishop Jerald Almeda submitted a memorandum to Chouhan, demanding
the arrest of the culprits and a judicial enquiry into the
They also sought security for the community people, their
places of worship and the academic institutions run by missionaries.
State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the incident
was a "conspiracy to bring a bad name to the state and
those found guilty would not be spared."
This is the third case of assault on Christian missionaries
in the state in the past few weeks. On Monday, a watchman
of Carmel Convent School in Ujjain was beaten up.
On Sep 7, 86-year-old St. Bartholomew church in Ratlam district
was set on fire.
In the Ratlam case, the police have blamed the church watchman
Noel Pare. But the Catholic Bishops Council have said that
the watchman was innocent and claimed that the police were
shielding the real culprits who set fire to the church.
Hindu radicals have attacked Christian shrines and other religious
symbols in the states of Orissa and Karnataka, alleging that
they were indulging in illegal conversion of Hindus into Christi
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