MUMBAI, India – A bishop in India said he was “saddened” over the vandalism of a Catholic school in the western part of the country.
The Holy Cross Convent Primary School in Kolhapur was attacked on Jan. 22 by members of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena.
“India is a land of peace, and we should always believe and promote peace, whatever our differences,” said Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, the diocese which contains Kolhapur.
According to a statement from the school, the attack on the offices of the headmistress and clerk “has created a shocking atmosphere where the staff and students are doubtful about their security.”
“Keeping in mind that our school is a minority school and considering the safety of the students, the management demanded that strict action should be taken against the unlawful act of a group of so-called Yuva Sena,” the statement continued.
The administration decided to close the school indefinitely until action had been taken, drawing a protest from government education officials.
“The closing of school can result in academic loss of students. Hence, it is notified to immediately start the academic routine and convey about the same to the students and parents. The school management/headmistress will have to bear the consequences if the said activity results in academic loss of students,” the government notice said.
“India is a great country, where there are civil and legal ways and means to discuss and disagree and seek resolutions of the policy decisions of management. Violence is definitely not one of them. Peace should always be our goal,” Dabre told Crux.
“India is a multi-religious country, where religious diversity is respected and upheld, and we must live in peace with peoples of all religions and seek and work for tolerance and harmony,” the bishop said.
The bishop noted the Holy Cross School serves people of all communities and that Catholics make up a minority of the student body.
“Moreover, through their services without discrimination to students of all faiths, and the classrooms, which are inclusive of children of all different faiths, serve to be encounters of interfaith harmony and dialogue, building up social harmony and mutual coexistence for the good of our beloved motherland India,” Dabre said.
Since 2014, India has been ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.
Catholic schools often come under attack from Hindu nationalists, who demand that Hindu religious rites be allowed to be performed on their premises.