Church receives threat calls

Authorities at the Snanika Arulappanavara Virakta Mutt, a church that follows syncretic traditions in Deshanur village in Belagavi district, have been receiving threats from some right wing organisations, who allege they are indulging in conversions.

In a complaint filed with the Nesargi police station, Menino Gonsalves, popularly known as Menino Swami, the Jesuit priest who runs the church, has said that he got over 100 calls from members of Hindutva organisations who threatened him and his institution with dire consequences.

This followed a call on social media by Rishikumar ‘Kali’ Swami, self-anointed head of a mutt, to boycott the Deshanur mutt. He alleged that the priests at the Deshanur mutt wore saffron robes to attract gullible Hindu youth before converting them. “You cannot be a Christian and perform pooja,’’ he said in his post. Someone else shared the phone number and address of the priest. This led to a large number of activists calling the priest. Some of them abused him, police said. A team of local Bajrang Dal activists visited the church on Friday and spoke to the priests. Kali Swami has said he would visit the church to understand the problem and resolve issues if any. Police said they were monitoring the situation.

The mutt was established 75 years ago by saffron-wearing Jesuist priests. They installed a Shivalinga and idols of Jesus and Mary in the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the building. Rituals and ‘arati’ are performed while the faithful chant prayers and songs in the church daily. Hindus outnumber Christians in the rituals. There is not a single Christian family in Deshanur. The church has been running a Kannada medium school, hostels for girls and a free hospital for several decades.

The mutt, or Church of Saint John the Baptist is a stone building in the Banarasi Nagara style. Vachanas of Basavanna adorn the walls of the church, along with sayings from Purandara Dasa, some Hindu saints and lines from the Bible. The church and the school were established by Jesuist priest Armando Alvares or Sri Animananda Swamy in Deshanur in 1950. The priests say they are not involved in conversion.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:00:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/church-receives-threat-calls/article30828978.ece

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