India: Christmas fair attacked



An attack on a Christmas fair in Madhya Pradesh has spread panic among Christians in the state, says an organizer of the event.

Men chanting Hindu slogans torched representations of biblical scenes at the fair in the town of Gwalior yesterday (20 December). The police have arrested one of four men they named in connection with the incident.

The group evoked the names of Hindu deities and started damaging the biblical artworks depicting scenes from the life of Christ, said fair coordinator Raju Francis.

The Catholic layman told UCA News that local Christians had held the two-day fair before Christmas for eight years on public land near a market.

"Everything went well on the first day," he said. On the second day, the troublemakers not only spoiled the fair but sent panic through the Christian community in the state, he said.

Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said the attack "is a matter of serious concern for Christians especially when we are preparing to celebrate Christmas."

The prelate has sent a three-member fact finding team to Gwalior, headed by Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in the state. The archbishop has asked the team to submit its report in two days.

Archbishop Cornelio said he would in turn submit the report to the state government and seek protection for Christians and their institutions, especially during Christmas Eve midnight Masses.

Christians, who form less than one per cent of the state's population, have experienced sporadic violence since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)) came to power in December 2003.

Archbishop Cornelio told UCA News it is the government's duty to protect its citizens from attacks. He said the morale of anti-Christian groups is "very high" as the state government seldom takes action against them.

Source: UCA News

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