By Matters India Reporter
Bhopal: Police detained a group of Catholic carol singers in Satna district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on December 14 evening following allegation of religious conversion.
The group comprising 30 seminarians and two priests were detained from the main road as they were moving to Christian institutions in Satna town singing carol songs, a normal exercise during Christmas season.
The police took them to the Civil Lines police station following a complaint from right wing Hindu activists, who accused them of involving in religious conversion, a charge often leveled against Christians to target them.
Later, police took into custody another group of eight priests who came to the station to inquire about the seminarians.
“Our 30 seminarians and 10 priests are in police custody,” says Father M Rony, the social work director of Satna diocese.
“The situation outside the police station was so hostile that we cannot reach to the police station for helping our brothers and priests inside,” he told Matters India The right wing Hindu activists, the priest added, have virtually created a siege around the police station, “virtually denying us entry to the police station.”
According to him, the Hindu radicals torched the vehicle used by the second group to come to the station.
The seminarians and priests were still inside the police station even after midnight.
The carol group belongs to St Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna, some 450 km northeast of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state.
The college has been conducting carol programs in its neighboring villages since its inception on July 3, 1992, to train priests primarily for the mission dioceses and religious congregations of the Syro-Malabar Church in northern India.
Though started as a seminary for Satna diocese, it was later raised to a Synodal Mission Seminary. It is managed by the Syro-Malabar Major Archi-episcopal Synod headed by Major Archbishop, Cardinal George Alencherry.
The seminary offers degrees of Bachelor of Theology. Its website claims it aims at imparting theological formation in tune with the ecclesial tradition of St. Thomas Christians in the context of the North Indian mission.