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India

Cross desecrated on day of Mother Teresa's canonization

Sectarian elements are spreading hatred against the Christian community, say Catholics in Mumbai

Laveena Francis, Mumbai

Laveena Francis, Mumbai

Updated: September 08, 2016 08:30 AM GMT
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Cross desecrated on day of Mother Teresa's canonization

A roadside crucifix was found vandalized in Mumbai on Sept. 4. (Photo by Laveena Francis) 

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A roadside crucifix was found vandalized in Mumbai on Sept. 4 leading local Catholic leaders in the western Indian city to suspect that it is a hate act connected with the canonization of Mother Teresa.

They have written a letter bringing this to the attention of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra state of which Mumbai is the capital.

"Sectarian elements are spreading hatred against the Christian community," the letter said. The immediate cause could be that the canonization of Mother Teresa "has not gone [down] well with certain elements."

Police arrived at the site and "took away the broken pieces" before they made a record of evidence, according to Nicholas Almeida of Watchdog Foundation, a local rights group. They are now taking statements.

The cross was found vandalized on the day Mother Teresa became a saint. Her canonization Sept. 4 by Pope Francis at the vatican gained much political and media coverage across the country and the Hindu nationalist federal government sent a delegation to the Vatican to attend the ceremony. 

But several hardline groups have publicly denounced the work of the nun as a facade to convert Hindus to Catholicism. To them, she was an agent of Europe and the Vatican to spread Christianity in India at the cost of Hindu culture.  Recently, parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said that Mother Teresa was part of a conspiracy to "Christianize India."

"The timing of this incident is worrisome," said Dolphy D’ Souza, spokesperson for Save Our Land, which campaigns to protect Church-owned land from encroachments. Police must "thoroughly investigate the motives for such a desecration. We feel it is a mischievous attempt to provoke the community."

Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the archdiocese of Bombay, said that they have taken the incident to local police. "They have assured us that they will do a full inquiry and investigation on this sensitive issue," he said.

Local Catholics have been left baffled by the violation because they live in harmony with their Hindu neighbors. "There are no tensions here. We live peacefully," said John D'Souza, a local Catholic.

"God only knows who did this and what they wanted to get out of breaking it," said Anthony D'Souza, adding that local people believe it happened after midnight September 3. "Nobody saw it happening otherwise they would have caught them."

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