Mumbai, India – In Karnataka, Christians are increasingly the target of Hindu extremists because their schools allow members of the lowest castes to study, Brother Phillip Noronha told AsiaNews. The religious is a missionary and vice principal of Holy Cross School in Whitefield (Bangalore). At present, he is in hospital recovering from the wounds he received when he was beaten up in front of his school last Saturday.
“Their intent was to humiliate me, bring discredit to our Holy Cross School and malign the good name of Christian missionaries,” he said. Yet, this has “strengthened my vocation as a religious brother and strengthened my resolve to impart value based education, following the teachings of Christ. [. . .] I am a Brother of the Holy Cross, and Christ allowed me a small taste of his cross”.
After accusing him of sexual misconduct, a mob of some 500 Hindus dragged him out of the school, where he was struck, kicked and caned. All this occurred as cameras from three local TV stations taped the event. Whitefield Police Inspector B N Gopalakrishna was among those who took part in the attack.
According to a preliminary assessment, the beating and accusations were orchestrated by the parents of two Hindu students attending the 10th grade in Holy Cross School. They and others want to seize land owned by the school to benefit a Hindu temple that was recently built nearby. However, for the Catholic religious, the issue is not only the land, but also the very presence of missionaries in the area.
“Through our services and programmes for the poor, the local ruling class can no longer exploit poor people. Education gives the poor and the marginalised independence, and the dominant bourgeoisie is trying to resist [changes] through such acts,” he said.
According to Brother Philip, exploiting badly paid farm workers is good business for members of the upper castes, who “cannot tolerate the empowerment of the poor and marginalised and thus attack all those (like the Christian missionaries) who bring about social change,” he explained.
“I have forgiven those who attacked me and tried to malign me,” he added. “Justice, however, must follow its course. The vice principal of Holy Cross School has in fact filed a complaint with police, which followed up with a First Information Report (FIR).
Ultimately, the brother hopes that Christian missionaries who serve society can receive the same protection guaranteed by the Indian constitution.