CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 March 2019

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Priest attacked by Hindu hardliners

NEW DEHLI (UCAN): Father Vineet Vincent Pereira of Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, was been arrested on false charges after being beaten up by a hardline youth group, Hindu Yuva Vahini (youth force), on November 15.
 
Father Pereira said that members of the group came to his ashram (retreat venue) in Gohana town in Mau district, and attacked some of the elderly people living there with him.
 
“When I objected, they beat me. One pulled me down holding my hair and dragged out. Then they hit me left and right,” he said. Those gathered around rescued him.
 
Not long after, police arrived and arrested him based on a complaint made by his attackers on charges of rioting and disturbing public peace. If found guilty, each charge carries a maximum jail term of two years.
 
A local court bailed the 43-year-old priest on the same evening.
 
Father John Abraham, the diocesan vicar general, said that the Hindu group must have been angry over Father Pereira’s popularity with Hindus who identify themselves as Christ Bhaktas (devotees of Christ).
 
Father Pereira lives a hermit-like existence and regularly conducts prayers for around 1,500 of these people at his ashram, said Father Abraham. “None of them have become Christians, but they follow Christian spiritual values.” 
 
Father Pereira said he used to conduct prayer meetings in nine villages but after four attempted attacks on him the prayers were limited to his ashram.
 
The Hindu Yuva Vahini youth group was founded in 2002 by the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adithyanath, a Hindu ascetic-turned-politician. Reconversion of Christians back to Hinduism is reportedly part of the organisation’s aims.
 
There have been 44 anti-Christian incidents in the past two months, while only 71 such incidents were documented across India, according to the Religious Liberty Commission of Evangelical Fellowship of India.

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