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Priests attacked at Catholic mission in east India

The gun-wielding thieves also threatened and looted women teachers at nearby staff quarters of mission school
An elderly tribal Christian woman sits outside her house in Odisha state. Christians make up a mere 2.77 percent of Odisha´s more than 4 million people.

An elderly tribal Christian woman sits outside her house in Odisha state. Christians make up a mere 2.77 percent of Odisha´s more than 4 million people. (Photo: AFP)

 

Published: April 12, 2024 12:10 PM GMT
Updated: April 15, 2024 03:37 AM GMT

Priests at a Catholic mission in eastern India were brutally attacked by a gang of thieves who also entered the nearby staff quarters and threatened and looted women teachers at gunpoint.

The incident occurred on April 10 at Bagdehi mission station, which houses St. Arnold Primary School run by the Society of Divine Word (SVD), in Odisha state’s Jharsuguda district.

“The thieves attacked the priests with curtain rods and chairs,” said Father Anuranjan Bilung, provincial superior of the eastern province of the congregation. “They took away mobile phones and destroyed them, then tied the priests' hands and legs with ropes and locked them in a room.”

The armed gang of about a dozen men entered the mission campus at 9.30 p.m. It continued to terrorize the priests, the teaching staff, and their families well past midnight before decamping with 100,000 Indian rupees (US$1,212) and valuables, including gold ornaments and mobile phones.

“Eight teachers were locked in one room,” Bilung told UCA News on April 12.

The priest said that, luckily, the thieves did not do any physical harm to the women teachers.

The thieves kept asking where the priests resided and then took hold of a helper at gunpoint and asked her to show them their residence, which was about 50 meters away from the school and staff quarters.

“They threatened to kill her daughter if she failed to show them where the priests lived,” Bilung said.

After their attackers left, one of the priests who hid his mobile phone managed to contact an employee of the school who stayed outside the campus.

They were rescued after some time and rushed to the nearby Church-run dispensary to get first aid.

“They are still in trauma and need rest,” Bilung said.

A police team arrived and recorded the statements of the priests, the teachers and other staff members.

Bilung said the thieves appeared to have planned the crime well and “executed it with precision.”

The priest did not rule out the possibility of someone familiar with the campus being involved in the attack.

“However, we could not identify anyone among the attackers as they had covered their faces and put on jackets, gloves, and shoes to completely hide themselves,” Bilung said.

Christians make up a mere 2.77 percent of Odisha's more than 4 million people, and Catholics constitute 1 percent, most tribal people.

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