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India

Indian court bails British missionary accused of sex abuse

Tribal boy files police complaint against founder of Odisha shelter for poor children

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Indian court bails British missionary accused of sex abuse

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A court in the eastern Indian state of Odisha has granted bail to a British missionary who was arrested on charges of sexually abusing a tribal boy.

John Patrick Bridge, a UK citizen, was arrested on Aug. 20 in Jharsuguda where he runs a residential institute for poor tribal children, superintendent of police PR Rahul told reporters.

“There are several small sects working in the diocese as well as in the state and since they don’t come under the Catholic diocese we have no control over them. We have very limited knowledge about their activities and we don’t interfere with their work,” Father Bartholomeo Bilung, vicar general of Sambalpur Diocese, told UCA News.

“Doing social work in the state does no harm but it should be under strict rules and regulations and nobody should take the law for granted. Let the police do their duty — we should not disturb them.

“The British man has lived in the state for more than 30 years and he even married a local women and runs a school and shelter home for poor children. We don’t have any information regarding the misuse of funds or abuse.”

Meanwhile, police official Rahul said Bridge, 68, was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by the boy, who boards at the shelter. Further investigation into the case is in progress, he said. Bridge was granted bail on Aug. 22.

Bridge has been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and SC/ST (POA) Act, Rahul said.

He has been providing free education to tribal children at his shelter, where over 400 students are currently staying.

The alleged abuse came to light when an inquiry was initiated by the Indian embassy in New Zealand over alleged misuse of funds by Bridge’s organization, Faith Outreach, in the Cox Colony area of Jharsuguda, a police official said.

During the investigation in Odisha, police discovered the alleged sexual assault and asked the boy to register a complaint.

The boy alleged that last year, while visiting his hometown in Rayagada district, Bridge had fondled his thighs and private parts in a car.

Bridge, who started Faith Outreach 25 years ago, also has a care center for abandoned babies. The center prepares volunteers to work as social workers in local communities.

In December 2018, pastor Faiz Rehman was arrested after allegations by inmates of Good News India Dream Center, a child shelter in Dhenkanal district, that he physically and sexually assaulted them.

Rehman’s bail was rejected by Orissa High Court in February and August last year. His trial has already started, a police official said.

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