Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, January 2, 2023 — A violent crowed of tribal people vandalized a Catholic Church, a grotto of Mother Mary and the presbytery in Narayanpur district, Chhattisgarh state on Jan. 2.
The crowed armed with sticks and stones forced open the main gate of the Sacred Heart Church, in the heart of district headquarters and started to pelt stone at the Church.
They then forced into the Church through the main door and destroyed everything including the crucifix in the altar.
The crowed also vandalized the presbytery and a grotto of Mother Mary inside the Church campus.
Father Jomon TD, the parish priest told Matters India, “nothing is left everything is destroyed”.
“The more than five decades old Church”, the priest said, “was rebuilt five years back and now everything inside is ruined”.
Archbishop Victor Henry Thakur of Raipur has condemned the attack and sought action against those behind it.
“We are deeply saddened and pained by the destructive attacks on Christians and today’s atrociously vandalizing the Catholic Church and presbytery at Narayanpur in the Diocese of Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh,” archbishop said.
The crowed that attacked the Church was part of a protest under banner of Sarva Adivasi Samaj that is opposed to tribal people adopting other faiths especially Christianity and Islam.
The protest was in response to the earlier violent clashes between them (those following Christianity and tribal animist religion).
Narayanpur and its neighbouring Kondagaon district have become very dangerous place for Christians with organized attacks against them.
A recent report released by a fact finding team comprising members from Centre for Study of Society and Secularism partnering with All India Peoples Forum, All India Lawyers Association for Justice, United Christian Forum and other eminent members of the civil society.
The report released on December 29 said, “there is an organized campaign to forcibly convert Christian Adivasis to Hindu religion”.
“This is obvious as suddenly from December 9-18 there were a series of attacks in about 18 villages in Narayanpur district and 15 villages in Kondagaon district displacing about 1000 Christian Adivasis from their own villages were displaced.
“Those displaced were told to give up their Christian faith and convert to Hindu religion failing which they were threatened their village or face dire consequences including death”, the report said.
“Many Christian Adivasis were gravely assaulted and beaten with lathis, tires, and rods. Atleast two dozen people had to be hospitalized with injuries like fracture of collar bone and other such injuries”, it noted after interacting with the displaced persons, police and others.
“The displaced persons were forced to leave their village and seek shelter in the open during winter season. A few were forcibly converted to Hinduism”, the report said.
Quoting one Manglu Koram from Madamnar village the report said “members of 21 Christian families of his village were forcibly taken to the village tihad (temple) where the priest forcefully sprinkled some water on them and conducted some rituals and declared them to be Hindus now”.
“They also forcibly took away copies of the Bible from their homes. Likewise 18 families from Udidgaon village and 3 families from Fulhadgaon, 3 families from Putanchandagaon village were also forcibly converted Hinduism.
“Even persons with disabilities and pregnant women were not spared of the brutal violence” the report said.
“The early warning of the campaign to forcibly convert Christians manifested in the month of October however the district administration ignored the early warning such as the threats and intimidations targeting Christian Adivasis”, the report said.
The report also appealed the government to take immediate steps to facilitate the return of displaced persons into their villages with dignity.
“Until such time, the facilities in the relief camps should be improved, particularly, keeping in mind the requirements of women, children and persons with disabilities ensuring privacy and sanitation”, report said.
The team also demanded action against the perpetrators of the violence without delay and those involved in forcible conversion of tribal people into Hindu religion.
The team also demanded for either Supreme Court or High Court monitored investigation into the atrocities and attacks tribal Christians among other things.