Nearly 200 Catholic schools and colleges in and around Bombay closed today in protest at an attack on a Catholic priest. The Archbishop of Bombay, Ivan Dias, called for the closure in response to the attack on Fr Oscar Mendonza last week in the Thane District. Hindu extremists are alleged to have beaten the priest and vandalised his church in what the archbishop described as a "senseless and barbaric act". Before schools were closed, students prayed for peace and reconciliation. Catholic employees also wore black badges to their offices today, as a mark of protest. Fifteen members of a hardline Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, have been arrested in connection with the attack. The Bajrang Dal has denied any involvement in the incident, but it has refused to join a meeting of other political parties called for Independence Day on 15 August to condemn the incident. This is the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks by ultra-nationalist Hindu groups in recent years. Most incidents have been reported from the predominantly tribal regions of Orissa, Gujarat, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The fact that this violence took place in a modern city such as Bombay is being taken very seriously by the authorities.
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