Church robbery, Christians see proof of impunity – UCAN

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Police inactivity encourages further crimes, bishop declares.

A parish church in India's Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity.

Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese Aug. 13 and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said.

“This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com on Aug. 16.

The first was on Dec. 3 when thieves entered the presbytery and stole about 100,000 rupees (US$1,500).

A second attempt took place on Feb. 15, but was foiled when people inside presbytery woke up, he said.

Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar bemoaned what he said was a complete lack of police action in trying to stop attacks on Christians in the state, which encourages criminals to commit further acts.

"They [the police] are inactive, and don’t take any action when churches are attacked. They don’t take seriously our complaints. What can we do? It is the duty of the police to investigate and take action against the culprits," he told ucanews.com.

Christians have faced a series of attacks since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state in December 2003, Church leaders say.

Local police chief R K Bansaldenied denied accusations that the police were doing nothing. He told ucanews.com that his men were investigating the latest case with the help of CCTV footage.

The footage shows the suspect stayed on the premises for almost one hour, he said.

Although the images are unclear, police believe “the robber is a local person who is aware of the workings of the Church," the officer said.

Bishop Chirayath and other Christian leaders say there have been at least 100 attacks on Christians since the BJP came to power 12 years ago, with more than 20 occurring in the last six months.

Not one prosecution has taken place, they say.

"The Church has been continuously denied justice even after proper complaints to the authorities about assaults, attacks and other illegal cases leveled against it and its members, but to date there isn’t a single example in which the administration has acted properly to boost the trust and confidence of the people," State Bishops' Council spokesperson Father Maria Stephen said.

"Since we believe in the rule of law, we are going to meet the district collector [the highest government authority in the district]. We will also approach the courts for protection and safety, if need be," he said.

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