By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
BHUBANESWAR, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Security was stepped up Easter Sunday, April 8, around a historic Catholic church and an adjacent convent of missionary nuns in eastern India where Hindu hardliners threatened to murder a priest, sparking fears of renewed anti-Christian violence that killed many people in the area, church officials told BosNewsLife.
The ‘Mary Mother of God Parish Church’ in Sukananda village of Orissa’s troubled Kandhamal District said it asked for protection from security forces after its priest, Sisirakant Sabhanayak, received death threats, ahead of Easter.
Church officials say they are on high alert as their “church, priest residence and adjacent convent of ‘Missionaries of Charity’ nuns were badly ransacked, looted, destroyed and demolished during anti-Christian violence of 2008 in Kandhamal district that killed some 100 people.
The latest tensions began March 29 when Hindus hardliners began to destroy a road leading to the Mary Grotto on a hill behind the century-old church, Christians said. Priest Sabhanayak reportedly tried to halt the destruction but a local Hindu villager, identified publicly as Manoj Nayak, and supporters continued and returned with more heavy machinery on March 30.
They also allegedly abused the priest with “filthy language” and one man, Rabindra Nayak, allegedly caught the priest’s throat, kicked him, and threatened to kill him.
Several days later on April 4 “when the priest was going to naarby G.Udayagir town, Manoj Nayak caught hold of the priest’s throat and pushed him,” the church said in a statement. “On April 6, Rabindra Nayak again threatened to kill priest Sisirakant” who has been the parish priest in Sukananda since 2010.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese, to which the church belongs, told BosNewsLife he had “urged Kandhamal District Superintendent” to intervene on Good Friday, April 6, “after which the local district administration has sent police forces to the site.”
Several church sources, who did not want to be identified, told BosNewsLife they fear “Hindu radical groups might have been behind the incident to disturb the Holy Week celebrations.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Hindus involved in the stand-off. No group has claimed responsibility for the latest reported attacks.