Odisha: CBCI visits Sundargarh, alleges church and temple vandalisation a “planned approach”

Published on: April 9, 2018
A delegation of Bishops which comprised of Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), Archbishop John Barwa SVD, the Regional Chairman of the Odisha Catholic Bishops’ Council (OCBC), Bishop Kishor Kumar Kujur, the Bishop of Rourkela, Bishop Telesphore Bilung SVD, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Ranchi, Bishop Alphonse Bilung, SVD, Bishop Emeritus of Rourkela, visited the affected areas of Sundargarh, Odisha on Saturday to take note of the situation after the vandalism that took place on April 1.

Marian statue inside the grotto of Bihabandh Catholic Church in Odisha (Photo by Rourkela Diocese)

According to the press statement put out by the CBCI, a large crowd comprising of priests, sisters, and devotees received the delegation as it reached Sundargarh.

On April 1, 2018, during the late night of Easter Sunday, few “anti-social” elements vandalised a grotto outside the compound of St. Thomas Church, Salangabahal, and mutilated the statue of Marian. The vandals also broke the head of the statue of baby Jesus in the grotto.

Moreover, goons reportedly smashed a statue of Marian in another grotto in Gyanpali village and attempted to burn the Church of the Victory of the Cross in Bihabandh, the Diocese of Rourkela.
To make the situation more grave, the head of a statue of a bull of a Shiva Temple in the vicinity was also found chopped off.

The church did not link the incident with any of the radical groups or Hindutva groups as such. However, it has accused the state of showing apathy in dealing with such cases.

According to the assessment of the security forces, it seems to be a systematic premeditated ploy to disturb the peace of the people “who have been living in age-old harmony with each other in these villages,” stated the press statement.

“It appears that the anti-social elements targeted the holy places of two communities seeking to create a communal divide,” it reads further.

“The alertness of our priests and the Bishop Kishor and Archbishop Barwa, both of whom began contacting immediately the government and police authorities saved the situation which could have otherwise turned grave,” it added.

Condemning the attacks on both the Christian and Hindu places of worship, the delegation exhorted the locals to not to fall prey to the divisive forces.

Later, the Bishops also visited the damaged temple and met with the managing committee members which belonged to the temple.

The incident comes at a time when every church in the country was involved in the Easter celebrations. Moreover, the state has also been in news in the past for being the ground of anti-Christian violence which has resulted in the loss of more than 100 lives of members of the Christian community.

“While we reiterate that the incidents against the places of worship should have never happened and bring us shame and pain, we are proud of the people of Sundargarh District who have shown that we are capable of fighting the forces that want to divide us and polarise us,” the press statement concluded.

Courtesy: Two Circles