Communal tensions rise in Kerala after priest hit by car; Christian groups protest

| Updated: 25 February, 2024 12:22 pm IST
St Mary's Forane Church. (Facebook)

PATHANAMTHITTA: The tranquil town of Poonjar and its surrounding areas were engulfed in turmoil as a group of youths affiliated with radical factions brutally attacked a priest within the premises of a local church. The altercation reportedly stemmed from the priest’s objection to reckless driving and disruptive behaviour in the vicinity.

The victim, Fr. Attuchalil Joseph, assistant vicar of St. Mary’s Forane Church, Poonjar, found himself at the receiving end of the assault, prompting a vehement outcry from the congregation. Scores of believers gathered outside the police station, demanding swift justice and the apprehension of the assailants.

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According to police accounts, a contingent of youths, on motorcycles, and in cars, descended upon the church grounds following their school exams, engaging in reckless driving and creating a disturbance. Fr. Joseph intervened, urging the unruly youths to depart, particularly as religious services were underway within the church. However, his efforts were met with resistance, culminating in a violent altercation that left him severely injured.

Condemnation of the attack reverberated across political circles, with BJP leader Shaun George vehemently denouncing the assault and advocating for decisive action. George voiced his support for Fr. Joseph through social media platforms, underscoring the gravity of the incident.

The injured priest was promptly hospitalised at Pala Med City Hospital in Kottayam, where he received treatment for his injuries. Law enforcement authorities have registered a case against six individuals implicated in the assault, assuring the public that all perpetrators will be swiftly apprehended.

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Meanwhile, Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), a conservative Christian organisation, staged a protest in Poonjar, demanding stringent repercussions for those responsible for the attack. CASA officials criticised the media’s purported bias in covering incidents of violence against Christians and chastised religious leaders for purportedly overlooking such assaults within Kerala.

Kevin Peter, state president of CASA, emphasised the need for reflection among those who dismiss attacks against Christians in other parts of India, citing Fr. Joseph’s non-involvement in proselytising activities and his respectful demeanour towards non-Christian beliefs.

“This incident is the final signal for those pseudo seculars and the church heads who always points at the attacks on Christians in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and other north Indian states. The unfortunate incident that took place in the Church premises is a stark reminder for all those people. Fr Joseph was not indulged in any kind of religious conversion activity. He has not spoken a single word insulting the beliefs of non-Christians. He just tried to warn those people who trespassed into the church compound and tried to disturb the prayers”, said Kevin Peter, state president, CASA.

However, leaders of both the BJP and the Congress seized upon the incident to castigate the state government, alleging its failure to promptly apprehend the perpetrators.

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