Bishops condemn attacks on Africans in India

Foreigners in the country have to be treated as 'our esteemed guests,' says bishops’ conference secretary-general
Bishops condemn attacks on Africans in India

Members of the African Students Association hold placards during a protest in Hyderabad Feb. 6, 2016, in support of Tanzanian nationals assaulted by a local mob in Bangalore. (Photo by AFP)

Bishops in India have condemned a series of attacks on Africans in New Delhi, terming it as a disturbing trend and against Indian culture. 

"Africans and for that matter nationals of any country are our esteemed guests. Treat them as per our culture," Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said in a press statement.

Stating that Indians believe in the saying Atithi devobhava (guest is our god), he appealed to people to maintain peace and brotherhood.

Masonda Ketada Olivier from Congo was beaten to death on May 20 after an argument over hiring an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi. Olivier, 29, was a French language teacher at a private institute in the city.

In a possible reaction to this incident, shops belonging to a few Indians living in Congo were attacked, leaving some of them injured.

After this incident, seven African men and women were attacked on May 28 in New Delhi. The victims told police the attackers yelled racial slurs and beat them up with cricket bats, sticks and rods.

Police have since arrested five people in connection with these incidents. Police claim the attacks were "isolated incidents" and not racist in nature.

"The Indian government needs to assure proper safety and security to these people and the culprits need to be brought to book," Father Jaison Vadassery, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for labor, told ucanews.com.

Indians too are migrants to other countries and such incidents can have harmful repercussions.

"It will diminish the image of the country at international level," he said. 

His labor office is part of the Pontifical Council of Migrants in Rome and looks after foreign migrant issues in India. "We are supposed to respond to these issues," Father Vadassery said.

"We invite people from other countries for study purposes, so adequate measures should be taken for their safety," he said.

Thousands of Africans work or study in India. Incidents in the recent past have raised concerns about racism and discrimination.

A Tanzanian student in February was brutally assaulted and partially stripped by a mob in Bangalore. 

A law minister in 2014 was accused of leading a vigilante mob against African women, accusing them of being sex workers. 

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A year earlier, a Nigerian was killed by a mob in the tourist state of Goa. A state minister there described Nigerians as a "cancer."

Following the May 20 murder, media reported India's minister for tourism and culture, Mahesh Sharma, as saying that such incidents happen in other parts of the world too and that even Africa is not safe.

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