Christmas carolers detained for allegedly trying to convert man

Gwen Vasquez
December 18, 2017

An 18-year-old was arrested yesterday in Satna for allegedly setting ablaze a auto that belonged to a Catholic group who were accused by right-wing group Bajrang Dal of forcing religious conversions.

That night, suspected Bajrang Dal activists had allegedly beaten up a group of Christians, including 10 priests, and set their vehicle on fire outside the Civil Lines police station over alleged conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

The Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh denied the allegations of forcible conversion and accused police of siding with the Hindu activists.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in. "Hearing the news, four other priests rushed to the police station, but they were also thrashed and their auto was set on fire".

A police officer, on condition of anonymity, stated that after the carolers were arrested and charged, they were kept in protective custody because of fears they would be attacked if released immediately.

The seminarians and priests were still inside the police station even after midnight. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), said the group comprised seminarians and two priests form St Ephrem's Theological College in Satna, and were detained while conducting routine carol singing program for Christmas.

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Leo Cornelio, the archbishop of Bhopal diocese, described the incident as "repeated shameful acts of the fundamentalists to rise above the law in attacking the Christian brothers who are spreading love, peace and brotherhood".

"The charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians (were) detained is frivolous and laughable", Mascarenhas said in a statement on Friday.

Satna superintendent of police, Rajesh Hingankar, said police brought all clergymen - said to be about 32 - to the police station as they had been surrounded by angry villagers.

Satna's Bajrang Dal leader Sachin Shukla claimed district Bajrang Dal convener Yatindra Pathak informed police about the Christian missionaries indulging in conversion activities in the village.

Denying allegations of conversion, Father Rony had said the Diocese has been running a seminary at Barakala village in Satna district for 20 years and not a single person has been converted to Christianity.

He alleged they were forced to squat in a room at the police station at the night in inhuman condition without any warm clothes. "They gave us a Bible and Rs 5000 in cash", he said.

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