MUMBAI, India – A priest who headed a church-sponsored missionary school in central India has been suspended from his post after allegedly denying food to roughly 45 students for two days as punishment for damaging a soccer ball.
The school is administered by the Diocese of Ambikapur under Bishop Antonis Bara. It’s a residential facility for roughly 140 boys and girls, primarily from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to local media reports, some children were playing soccer on Aug. 28 when the ball they were using burst. The school’s superintendent, Father Peter Sadom, reacted by deciding to deny food to roughly 45 students as a punishment for destroying the ball.
Apparently, word began to circulate in the local community that children were being denied food, prompting some local residents to arrive at the school with biscuits. A video of the residents giving snacks to the children was posted on social media, which triggered an investigation by the district administration and education department.
According to the results, Sadom defended his actions to investigators.
“We arrange everything for the kids, yet they break utensils and balls,” he was quoted as saying. “They should learn to struggle and be punished for their wrongdoing.
He also played down the severity of the punishment, saying the children were only denied two meals, and that it wasn’t true that they went hungry for two days.
Also according to media accounts, investigators discovered other potential issues at the missionary school, including residential students being crowded so tightly into two small rooms that there’s no space to walk. In addition, bottles of pesticides were reportedly discovered to be stored in the same rooms where the children sleep.
Angry parents and villagers demanded action, claiming that students were not safe under Sadom’s supervision. A report by the district education officer concluded that his investigation largely upheld the allegations.
As a result, the Ambikapur diocese suspended Sadom as the superintendent of the school, temporarily recalling him to diocesan headquarters.
A local child welfare committee is scheduled to conduct an investigation of the school, including its residential facilities.
Archbishop Victor Thakur of Raipur, the metropolitan under whose jurisdiction Ambikapur falls, told Crux that the media reports about the school were substantially correct. Thakur said he has not yet spoken to Bara, who is presently in Rome attending a Vatican-run formation program for new bishops, but he confirmed the information with a local priest.
“What is reported is true, and the priest has been suspended and removed from the place,” Thakur said. “The situation seems bit calmer now.”