Saturday, September 27, 2008

Attacks on churches spread to Tamil Nadu

26 Sep 2008, 2210 hrs IST,TNN

COIMBATORE/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala, attacks on churches have spread to Tamil Nadu, with suspected Hindu activists damaging a statue of Baby Jesus in Dharmapuram town in Erode district in the southern part of the state.

The attack in Erode came as fresh instances of desecration of church property were reported from neighbouring Kerala. Glass panes of a holy wayside cupola at Harippad in Kerala's Alleppey district were found broken on Friday.

The panes of the cupola were smashed with a stone, police said, adding that the glass on a portrait of apostle St Thomas placed inside it was also found broken. The place of worship belongs to the Karthigappally St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, which falls under the Malankara Orthodox Church.

As in Orissa and Karnataka, where ire against conversions was directed wantonly against all orders and churches belonging to denominations which had traditionally not been involved in conversion, Hindu activists in Kerala have also expanded the violence to include Catholic churches.

The attacks have continued despite assurances from authorities on protection of churches and Christian property. After the Tamil Nadu attack on Friday, tension gripped Dharmapuram. Police beefed up security at churches, mosques and temples in the district after the attack.

In Tamil Nadu, it was the fourth attack on church property. It came barely a day after a statue of Virgin Mary was damaged in Karavalai in Nagercoil. On Tuesday, unidentified people damaged an idol at St Joseph's Church in Arapalayam in Madurai. Last week, two Hindu Munnani members were arrested for pelting stones at a church in Namakkal.

TN chief minister M Karunanidhi warned that strict action would be taken against the attackers. Friday's incident in Kerala was also the fourth such in the state in two weeks and the second in Alappuzha district. On Wednesday, glass panes of a chapel in Purakkod district were found broken. Those behind the desecration are yet to be booked.

Earlier this week, two churches near the Nedumbassery international airport in Kochi were attacked, again by unidentified miscreants. Investigations in the case have reached nowhere, but there are allegations that police were deliberately going slow in the matter.

The first attack was on September 15, at a convent school which doubled as a prayer hall in Kasargode district. One person has been arrested in connection with the incident, which was suspected to be orchestrated by right-wing Hindu elements who have accused the Church of indulging in conversions.

Kasargode being on the Kerala-Karnataka border, police suspect that those behind the Karnataka attacks were involved here too. The Sangh Parivar and affiliated organizations have a fairly large influence in the district, which has also witnessed Hindu-Muslim skirmishes at regular intervals.

Reacting to the development, Malankara Orthodox Church Metropolitan designate Poulose Mar Milithios said it appeared to be the handiwork of "anti-social elements" who wanted to foment communal trouble. He requested the government to take immediate action to bring the guilty to book and appealed to the faithful to maintain peace.


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