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India

Indian Christians pardon cross desecration amid political suspicions  

Diocese in Kerala state forgives vandals but some suspect an attempt to create religious strife ahead of state elections

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Indian Christians pardon cross desecration amid political suspicions  

Three of the young men who desecrated a concrete cross in Thamarassery Diocese. (Photo supplied)

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Catholics in a southern Indian diocese have pardoned vandals who desecrated a Christian cross, but some suspect the divisive move aimed to create religious discord ahead of state elections in Kerala next year.

The incident, the second of its type in a month, took place on Oct. 24 in Thamarassery Diocese, where five young men climbed over a 12-feet-high concrete cross on a hilltop, took pictures and circulated them on social media.

The cross was erected on the Catholic parish property in 1979. Parishioners overpowered the young men, took them to a police station and filed a desecration complaint.

But the diocese intervened and withdrew the complaint to help the release of the young men from police custody, said Father Benny Mundanattu, diocesan chancellor.

“They asked to pardon and wanted to forgive them. They were in their teens. If we proceed with the case, it could have a serious negative impact on their future life,” the priest told UCA News on Oct. 27.

Politics of desecration?

However, several parishes in the diocese and elsewhere protested the action at prayer meetings complying with Covid-19 protocols.

Catholics in Kanjirapally Diocese, some 300 kilometers south of Thamarassery, conducted a Way of the Cross on the main road while praying to change people who are desecrating Christian icons.

“This is not the first time this kind of act has been done in the state and therefore the perpetrators should be punished exemplarily so that no one should dare to do it again,” one said.

In a similar incident near Poonjar town, another cross was desecrated recently, said Catholic Congress members, a sociopolitical group. They joined for a protest meeting, local daily Deepika reported Oct. 27.

Some members of the Catholic Congress said the cross desecration was “a well-orchestrated conspiracy to insult the Christians in the state and incite communal violence” ahead of state elections.

The Catholic Congress wanted Kerala's government to initiate appropriate action against those whipping up communal frenzy.

The five-year term of the incumbent communist-led government ends in May 2021.

Christians and Muslims traditionally vote for the opposition Congress party. Some political activists say the Christian-Muslim divide could help the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which projects itself as fighting Muslims to protect Hindu interests.

Kerala, with some 33 million people, enjoys a unique religious combination. Christians (18 percent of the population) and Muslims (26 percent) can become decisive in elections. Hindus make up 55 percent of the population.

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