MUMBAI, India – A group of 15 attacked a Catholic parish in Odisha, India, on June 15, injuring two priests.

The incident happened at Jhorabahal parish in the city of Rourkela. The men injured Father Nerial Bilung and Father Alois Xalxo – the pastor and assistant pastor – and stole all the parishes money.

The attack happened early in the morning and the Diocese of Rourkela said in a statement the priests did not get any chance to escape or to inform anyone when the other men entered the parish.

The statement said the invaders severely started attacking the priests brutally beating with iron rods, crow bars, and hockey sticks, “and other lethal weapons.” The priests were then handcuffed and had their mouths taped shut.

“They threatened them not to make any noise or shout or they would be killed,” the statement said.

“They ransacked the house nearly for an hour and threw away all the belongings all of the place. Father Nerial Bilung fell unconscious severely bleeding,” it continued.

“Father Alois managed to untie his hands and helped Father Nerial. They could not come out of the room at night since they were afraid and remained in the room till morning. About 4.30am, they informed other people on campus,” the statement added.

In a message to Crux, Vicar General Father Bernard lakra said, “The two priests are stable and they are shifted to Mission Hospital, Nuagaon, in Rourkela from a government hospital.”

Odisha, formerly known as Orissa, has a history of anti-Christian violence, and was the spot of an infamous attack on the impoverished Christian minority in August 2008.

The vast majority of the population of Odisha is Hindu – over 93 percent. The Catholic population is just 2.7 percent. However, in Rourkela the Christian population is over 7 percent.

Police are investigating the incident. Although the attack came shortly after the end of India’s national elections, officers denied there was any religious motivation to the attacks.

“There is not communal angle. It’s a case of [violent robbery]. We’ll soon crack the case,” said Deputy Superintendent Nirmal Kumar Mahapatra.

Some of the stolen money had been donated to the two schools located on the parish property. The robbers also stole musical instruments and even the copies of bills and other financial records.

“The miscreants were all wearing facemasks, hand gloves, and heavy shoes, and spoke in Bihari sadri,” Bilung told reporters.

Bihari sadri is an Indo-Aryan language often spoken in Odisha.