Indian Christians protest raid on homes for the poor

The protesters gathered in front of the District Collector's office on Monday and demanded action against communal elements threatening social harmony.

Last week, the Bajrang Dal attacked three homes for the destitute run by Christians in Mangalore. Ebenezer hostel, Ashraya and Stella Mary’s Charity Home were attacked on allegations of conversion and ill-treatment of children.

Despite suspicions that the accusations are trumped up, a raid was conducted by Women and Child Welfare Department officials who took 28 children into custody and reportedly manhandled staff members.

The Karnataka Christian Unions' Association condemned the raid and declared a protest on Monday to demand protection of Christian institutions and places of worship.

Addressing the media, association representative Mariamma Thomas said the raids were pre-planned and intended to disturb communal harmony and tarnish the image of the Christian community.

"Social service, charity and brotherhood are hallmarks of Christianity which takes up the uplift of the poor and destitute who are not taken care by the society," media quoted her as saying.

She warned that if attacks on Christian institutions doing social service continued, it may result in people or organisations deciding not to take care of the poor and destitute.

The press meeting was joined by leaders of Ahinda, Karnataka Dalit Sangarsh Samithi, CITU, Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha and Karnataka Christ Union.

One of the Christian charity homes raided was that of leader of the opposition in Mangalore city corporation, Lancelot Pinto. Pinto has been running the orphanage for poor children for the last 11 years.

Taking note of the attacks, the Congress on Friday criticised the Hindu nationalist body Sangh Parivar and said they had instigated the police and social welfare department to conduct the unwarranted raids.

"No complaints of ill-treatment were made by parents or children all these years. The allegations of kidnapping, child-trafficking and religious conversion are just part of the Saffron agenda," said MLA B Ramanath Rai, President of Dakshina Kannada District Congress Committee (DKDCC).

Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Chief Minister Yeddyurappa to reign over anti social elements who are causing communal disharmony and harassing Christians throughout the state.

"Hindutva outfits in Mangalore have systematically and maliciously targetted Christian prayer centres and institutions alleging conversion activities," GCIC said. "The Justice Somasekhara Commission which gave a clean chit to the Sangh Parivar groups has emboldened them to launch a series of attacks against Christians.”

In September 2008, at least 20 Christian worship places were attacked by the Bajrang Dal in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, including Mangalore.

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