Christians in India Call for Independent Probe into Mass Desecration of Crosses

ICC Note: Christians in India’s Goa state are demanding an independent probe into the mass desecration of crosses. Since June 2017, some 50 crosses have been desecrated across Goa. Local Christians believe radical Hindu nationalists to be behind these desecrations. Last year, police in Goa arrested a Christian for the cross desecrations, but a court has now acquitted him on the majority of the charges brought by police.

02/24/2018 India (UCAN) – Seven months after police in Goa arrested a Catholic for desecrating graveyards and crosses, a court has acquitted him in 11 of 19 cases, vindicating the church’s claim that police framed him to cover up an orchestrated attack.

Police in the western Indian state had claimed 56-year-old Francis Xavier Pereira was “a radicalized former convict” who since 2003 had vandalized 150 religious structures. They also said he was mentally unstable and seeking publicity through vandalism.

Police charged him with 19 cases and the court acquitted him in 11, said Father Savio Fernandes, director of the Diocesan Centre for Social Justice and Peace, who earlier led a fact-finding team that dismissed police claims about Pereira.

“The fact-finding team sticks to its earlier demand for an impartial investigation into the desecration of the crosses,” Father Fernandes told ucanews.com on Feb. 20.

As some cases against Pereira are sub judice in other courts, the fact-finding team will not make any other comments, he said.

Some 50 crosses have been destroyed since June 2017 in Catholic strongholds in the southern part of Goa, a former Portuguese colony.

Church leaders suspect the vandalism aimed to divide Christians and Hindus in the state, where the government is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Father Fernandes’ comment came after Pereira told media that police took him from a road to a police station and forced him to admit at gunpoint to having carried out the desecration.

He claimed senior police officers, local legislators and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar arrived at the police station and directed him to confess to the cases.

“Parrikar said he was under pressure from Center [New Delhi] to nab the culprit and ordered me to accept the cases. He promised my nephew a government job and money to me. He also promised that the courts would release me in two or three months,” Pereira was quoted as saying.

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