By Saji Thomas, Jabalpur
A violent attack on a Catholic priest has forced Church leaders in central India to seek protection for their people and institutions during the Christmas season.
A group of 12 unidentified persons last Friday forced into the residence of Father Thomas Chirattavayalil, who works in a mission station of Satna diocese in Madhya Pradesh state.
He was badly beaten suffering a gash in his head needing five stitches and bruises all over his body and was admitted to hospital.
Father Chirattavayalil told ucanews.com from his hospital bed today that the attackers knocked on his door at around 2 a.m. He opened the door as the voice sounded familiar.
“As soon as I opened the door, one person hit me with a stick and I fell down,” he recalled. The priest got up and tried to close the door, but the intruders barged into the room and pushed him down again and started beating him.
“When I cried for help, they threatened to kill me. I somehow mustered courage and ran out of the room,” Father Chirattavayalil said and adding that he jumped over the church wall and took shelter in a house half a kilometer away.
The villagers informed the police and the priest was admitted to a Church-run hospital.
Father Chirattavayalil said he has no clue as to the attackers’ motive. “I don’t have enmity with anyone,” he said and added he has forgiven them “keeping the spirit of Christmas.”
Meanwhile, the district administration has posted two armed police guards at the church and one in the hospital.
Bishop Mathew Vaniakizhakkekl of Satna condemned the attack as “most inhuman.” He told the ucanews.com today the diocese has sought protection to Christians and their institutions during Christmas.
He urged Catholics not to be provoked but maintain peace and harmony. “We need to pray more to withstand such acts of terror and temptation during this Christmas specially,” he added.
Father Anand Muttungal, the spokesperson of the Church in the state, said Church leaders have met high government officials to seek protection in view of the past record of attacks during Christmas.
Christians in the state have experienced more than 180 incidence of violence since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) came to power seven years ago.