Bangalore: For Christians in the city, Sunday morning brought shocking news of desecration of two places of worship in Hebbal and Rajarajeshwarinagar in Bangalore late on Saturday night.
The St. James Church in Mariyannapalya off Nagawara Ring Road was ransacked, and cash from the offering box and two gold-plated crowns stolen. The glass casing around the Infant Jesus statue in the Holy Church In The Name Of Jesus in Rajajeshwarinagar was stoned, and the statue was damaged.
The attacks disrupted Sunday mass. Local people of the Christian community were angry, particularly because the attacks took place despite the presence of the police. They staged protests, and blocked with burning tyres the road leading to the church in Mariyannapalya.
Those who attacked the St. James Church opened the safe in which the sacred sacrament was kept and scattered the holy Eucharist all over. The targeting of this symbol of veneration hurt the sentiments of those who worship here.
According to Terence Mathew, parish priest of the church in Rajarajeshwarinagar, this is the third time that the glass casing has been damaged. Similar incidents had taken place in August 2005 and May 2006 and complaints were filed with the police, he said.
Following the recent attacks on prayer halls in Mangalore, two police constables and a patrol vehicle were deployed at the St. James Church, and one constable posted at the Rajajeshwarinagar church.
According to Police Commissioner Shankar M. Bidari, the police have registered separate cases of theft and of offending religious sentiments. “We have collected fingerprints and recovered a key chain with a Cross on it. Seven persons who have been detained in this connection are being questioned,” he said.
“The desecration has really hurt us. To ensure that peace is maintained, I appeal to my fellow brothers not to get provoked and to maintain calm,” parish priest of St. James Church Joseph Menezes said.
“Ours is an ancient institution and we have been running a Kannada-medium school for over a decade on the same campus. Many non-Christian students have passed out from our school and we have been living in harmony all these years. This is the first time that our church has been attacked,” he said.
Several political leaders and human rights activists visited the spots and condemned the incidents. While the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda accused the State government of inaction against the culprits behind the continued attacks, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Mallikarjun Kharge said the Centre should impose President’s Rule under Article 356 in the State.
Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad demanded that the Centre set up a commission to look into the continued attacks in BJP-ruled states. “The Bajrang Dal, which is involved in these incidents, should be banned,” she added.
Meanwhile, window panes of the ‘Brethren Christa aradhanalaya’ church in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu district were found broken on Sunday morning. Two constables attached to the Siddapura police station have been placed under suspension.
Chief Minister’s plea
Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Sunday, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has appealed to the people of the State to maintain peace and harmony. Karnataka had derived its strength from various religious and cultural streams and had always respected the sentiments of all people. There had been differences of opinion, but they had not reached violent levels, he said.
“In this hour of distress, we have to be tolerant, should maintain peace in the State and foil the evil designs of anti-social forces that are bent upon disturbing the social harmony. Rumour-mongers should not be encouraged. People belonging to different castes and communities should come together and raise their voice against the miscreants who are attempting to disturb peace and tranquillity,” he added.