Christian carol group detained, car set afire in Madhya Pradesh Christian carol group..

The carol group belongs to St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna, some 450 km northeast of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state Police detained a group of Catholic carol singers in Satna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on December 14 evening following allegation of religious conversion.The group comprising 30 seminarians and two priests were detained from the main road as they were moving to Christian institutions in Satna town singing carol songs, a normal exercise during Christmas season.The police took them to the Civil Lines police station following a complaint from right wing Hindu activists, who accused them of involving in religious conversion, a charge often leveled against Christians to target them.

Later, police took into custody another group of eight priests who came to the station to inquire about the seminarians.“Our 30 seminarians and 10 priests are in police custody,” says Father M Rony, the social work director of Satna diocese.

“The situation outside the police station was so hostile that we cannot reach to the police station for helping our brothers and priests inside,” he told Matters India The right wing Hindu activists, the priest added, have virtually created a siege around the police station, “virtually denying us entry to the police station.”
According to him, the Hindu radicals torched the vehicle used by the second group to come to the station.

The seminarians and priests were still inside the police station even after midnight.
The college has been conducting carol programs in its neighboring villages since its inception on July 3, 1992, to train priests primarily for the mission dioceses and religious congregations of the Syro-Malabar Church in northern India.

Though started as a seminary for Satna diocese, it was later raised to a Synodal Mission Seminary. It is managed by the Syro-Malabar Major Archi-episcopal Synod headed by Major Archbishop, Cardinal George Alencherry.

The seminary offers degrees of Bachelor of Theology. Its website claims it aims at imparting theological formation in tune with the ecclesial tradition of St. Thomas Christians in the context of the North Indian mission.

-Condemnation of the attack on Carol singing Priests and Seminarians in Madhya Pradesh

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expresses its shock, pain and hurt at the unprovoked violence against Catholic Priests and Seminarians in Satna in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on the night of 14th December 2017. A group of 30 Seminarians and two priests from St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were detained as they were conducting a routine Christmas carol singing programme which has been the practice during the Christmas season for the last 30 years. Unfortunately, in Madhya Pradesh there have been other signs of harassment of the Catholic Church in the last few months about which we have not raised a hue and cry.

What is even more shocking is that eight priests who later went to inquire about the detained priests and seminarians were also taken into custody. Shamefully the situation outside the police station was allowed to be so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could get no access to them. The charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians are detained is frivolous and laughable. The violence perpetrated by groups who claim to be “nationalists” and have taken upon themselves the mantle of protecting “nationalism’ and “religion” is disgraceful. The complicity of the police who arrested the seminarians and stood by helplessly as the priests and seminarians were assaulted is disgusting and appalling. Such misuse of the police force and break down of law and order is not tolerable in a democracy and in a civilized Society.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India condemns the behaviour of the goons who even went on to torch the vehicle of the priests. All right thinking Indians will hang their heads in shame at these terrorists who have taken on the garb of ‘religious police”. We are absolutely sure that they do not speak in the name of our very broad minded and peace loving Hindu brethren. It is sad that this attack comes just two days after the effusive praise heaped upon the Catholic Church by the Honourable Vice President of India Shri. Venkaiah Naidu at the Christmas Celebrations 2017 organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in Delhi on 12th December 2017
It is worrying that this incident of mobocracy occurs among a host of other incidents happening around the country in States ruled by leaders cutting across party lines. The video clipping of the gruesome murder of Mohammad Afrazul, a migrant worker from West Bengal who was hacked with a cleaver and then set on fire by a man in Rajsamand, Rajasthan on the suspicion of being in a relationship with a woman from another religious faith has recently gone viral around the world.

Reports that rallies are being planned in favour of this murderer are disturbing. Political murders in Kannur, Kerala and elsewhere, brutal killings of journalists in the last few months in Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and in other places do not give our beloved country a good name. Lynchings of more than 32 persons over the last two years almost all from one minority community on the suspicion of killing a cow or possessing beef is creating a fear psychosis among the minorities. These acts of Cow Vigilantes do not bring credit to our democratic nation with its long tradition of being the model of civilized living and harmonious existence in comparison to some other countries in the neighbourhood. Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has himself condemned mobs taking law into their own hands. “Some anti-social elements have made cow protection a medium for spreading anarchy. People involved in disturbing harmony in the country are also taking advantage of it…These affect the image of the country. State governments should take strict action against such anti-social elements.” he told an all party meeting in July, 2017.

We hail with pride, as Indian citizens, the words our Vice President Shri Naidu, uttered two days ago, “Christmas is the festival of love, joy and sharing. It is a time to renew our commitment to love and serve our families, communities and society; to be just and transparent in our dealings; to promote social and economic inclusion of all; to promote lasting peace between people of different religions and cultures and to promote sustainable development”.

The incident in Satna just a few days before Christmas is shameful and deplorable. Even worse, lynchings, mob attacks and brutal killings of innocent victims with culprits often not being found or going unpunished for months are large blots on our democracy.

It is time that we go beyond words and promises. Violence is dangerous. Our history has repeatedly shown us that violence and bloodshed, hate and fear, cannot help build a New India. Riots and mayhem have left behind destitute orphans and widows. We are not angry; we hold no grudge. We are sad and pained that our beloved Country is getting a bad name through the acts of hoodlums who are taking law into their hands.

We appeal to our political leadership at the Centre and in the States to bring back the rule of law and order and to deal severely with miscreants that disparage the work of leaders who want to bring peace and development to our peoples. Those that have been “fringe elements” till now cannot be allowed to take centre stage. The Christian community has been hailed by political and social leaders across the board as “a peace-loving community” which works with every government at the centre and in the state to engage in Nation building. We will continue to do so. But it is time for our leadership to go beyond words and promises and to ensure that every Indian citizen lives without fear and with respect and dignity.

Mahatma Gandhi had warned us before Independence, “Violent means will give violent freedom. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself”. We have the power to build a peaceful, tolerant and prosperous India.

Let us show the will to do it.

God bless India. Jai Hind!

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Secretary General
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India