Miscreants Set Fire Destroying Large Area of Greenery near Pezar Church

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Miscreants Set Fire Destroying Large Area of Greenery near Pezar Church

  •  Why Hate Crime Against Catholics! Miscreants Set Fire Destroying Large Area of Greenery near St Joseph Church-Pezar, on a 4.5 acres land filled with greenery

Mangaluru: Ever since there has been a change in the government, Christians of various denominations have been targets of hate crime across the Country, including Karnataka and Dakshina Kannada. The nature of hate crimes against Christians/Catholics ranged from attacks on property, including graffiti and vandalism, to physical assaults. This fact sheet highlights how hate crimes affect Christians, and helps readers to effectively identify anti-Christian hate crimes. Only a strong response from all from the particular community can effectively challenge discrimination, intolerance and hate crimes against Christians. So,are Christians/Catholics ready for this challenge, raising their voices against such discrimination, hate and property damage etc of this particular peace loving community-which always keeps its distance from such hate acts.

And here is a recent incident where miscreants have shown their hate crime against a Church and its faithful, by involving themselves in an illegal and hurtful act. The incident took place at a Church in Pezar-Kalavar P.O. is situated at a distance of 20 kms from Mangaluru and is surrounded by Bajpe, Thokur, Katipalla and Surathkal parishes. The church of St Joseph is one of the most ancient churches in Mangalore diocese. It existed here even before 1670. The history of the parish for the period from 1800 to 1864, written in Portuguese language is available, according to which, Pascal Kamath bought a piece of land from a Jain, built a thatched roof building at Kalavar village, which served as the church; Tipu Sultan demolished the church and used the stones of the demolished church to build a Darga.

It is also believed that during this time the valuable government documents showing the gifting of the land of 1.14 acres was lost. As a result of this, after more than 430 years, this land is a government property according to their records. Application to transfer this land to the church has been made to the government. When the local Catholics returned from Srirangapattana they rebuilt the church in a lowly valley, which made access to it rather difficult. This was done fearing further raids by the Muslims. This church was under Padroado, directly under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa till 1886. The priests from Goa used to serve the church. In 1886 it was ceded to the diocese of Mangalore. V. Rev. Fr J. Baretto, the parish priest and vicar forane made some additions to the church in 1908. V. Rev. Frs Gregory I. D’Souza, M. Rebello and Sabas Fernandes succeeded him. V. Rev. M.S. Fernandes built the existing presbytery in 1942.

Fr Norbert D’Souza built the Grotto in 1986. Fr Cyril Pinto constructed a new belfry. The celebration of Passion of our Lord Jesus on Tuesday of the Holy Week is a unique religious tradition, which started after the return of the captives from Srirangapattana, in remembering those people who laid down their life for the faith during the captivity under Tipu and celebrated with religious fervour. In 1996 the state government sanctioned 4.33 acres of land for this devotional purpose. On this land on April 18, 2000, during the time of Fr Cyril Pinto, new Stations of the Cross were erected and the Calvary Grotto was built. Pezar is the Mother Church for 8 parishes, viz., Bajpe, Surathkal, Gurpur, Ferar, Thokur, Permude, Neerude and Katipalla. Pejavara Church Higher Primary School was started in 1923 and had its own building in 1933. In 1966 Fr John G. Pinto started Pejavara High School.

And that was a little bit of history of the Church. Regarding the recent incident were miscreants had set fire to the plants in the vicinity of the Hill where the Holy Cross is erected (known as Kursaso Gudo), the Parish priest and vicar forane of St Joseph Church-Pezar Fr Marcel Saldanha said, ” Before I took over as the Parish Priest of Pezar Church, the nearly 4.5 acres of land near to the church was quite barren and neglected with no greenery whatsoever. Since I am a plant lover and an environmentalist I moved forward in converting this barren and dead land with greenery, where nearly 900 of fruit bearing, medicinal and other plants were planted in this area, which were donated by the State Forest department”.

“The entire area of nearly 4.5 acres is protected by a surrounding wall of 6-7 feet of height, and the main entrance gate is locked, to prevent trespassers into the area. My aim in developing this barren land into an environmentally friendly area filled with plants/trees in order to beat the pollution that is spread in the area due to many industrial companies, including MRPL,which release lots of chemical dust into the air. And a year later after I took over as the parish priest of Pezar Church, it encouraged me to plant more plants, since our Bishop Dr Peter Paul Saldanha launched a campaign, ‘Laudato Si’ (nature protection is my responsibility), to protect environment in all parishes, chapel, educational institutions, run by the diocese, and religious houses of men and women. Even before coming to Pezar, I have created a green environment at the parishes I served, like Kumbla church, kallianpur Milagres church, Paneer-Deralakatte church,among others” added Fr Saldanha.

Fr Saldanha further said, “Last year on 22 December, we experienced the same situation, miscreants had set fire to the greenery, but only 300 plants were destroyed in the fire, since we put out the fire. Last year the miscreants had used a long pole and had tied a cloth lit with fire and passed the pole through a drainage outlet which leads to the green land- and thus they set the fire at around noon time. Since we got the news that the place is on fire, we managed to put it out with the help of parishioners and locals, using small vehicles to carry water to douse the fire, since there was no access to fire brigade vehicles. Since it was a small fire, we didn’t take it seriously and no complaint was filed, except only informed the police of the incident”.

“Again this year, around the same time, on 19 December once again the miscreants had set the Greenland on fire, using new ways. Since we got the news of this fire a little late,and even though we tried our best to put out the fire, in the meantime a large portion was engulfed in fire resulting in the loss of nearly 500-600 plants. Prior to this fire set by miscreants, on 6 December we had hired the grass cutters to clean the area, but few dry grass was left behind among the plants. And when it rained heavily on 8 December, the rainwater helped in cleaning the area better. To douse the recent fire, five water tankers were used, along with the help of parishioners and locals. Since there was some dry grass left behind, and also due to the blowing wind, the fire spread quickly,destroying more greenery” added Fr Saldanha.

Fr Marcel Saldanha further said, “This time taking this incident seriously we lodged a complaint in Surathkal police station, and the Circle Inspector was very helpful, where he personally visited the spot, and was heartbroken looking at the burnt plants, since he hails from a family of farmers. He has assured his full support in nabbing the culprits behind this act. Regarding our parish, it comprises 116 families with about 450 parishioners. They attend daily masses and weekend masses with devotion and fervour, and live in harmony in their neighbourhood. So why would someone show hate towards our Church and its followers, is very surprising and needs to be addressed by the concerned authorities”.

When Team Mangalorean asked Fr Saldanha what could be the motive behind this arson, he replied saying,”Could be out of jealousy that we are developing the barren land into an eco-friendly atmosphere. Or someone wants to disrupt the Christmas season of joy and caring, out of jealousy. Or could be some other motive behind these acts, which have taken place twice. The exact reason will only be known when the police apprehend the culprits. Until then will leave the case in the hands of God, and the law enforcement authorities. But whatever these miscreants have done is hurting our feelings and hard work, but we will not quit, instead will plant more plants and make the area look green again. We also look forward to support from the locals and also from the concerned authorities so that such incidents won’t happen again, leading to disharmony in the community. We will wait for suitable results from the police, and if no action is taken, we will look into different ways to get justice. Until then, we trust in God for the truth to come out. My sincere thanks to all those who helped us during this incident-May God and Baby Jesus bless them all during this Christmas season”.

In conclusion, in my perspective, sources reveal that Hate crimes against Christians in India have risen by an alarming 40.87 percent despite a nationwide lockdown in place since March 25 in the country. Between January and June, India witnessed 293 cases of hate crimes against Christians, including five rapes and six murders. Persecution against Christians has become very common these days. Quite a few, not all from a certain religion are opposed to Christians and missionary work. Crimes against Christians have been reported from at least 22 of the 28 Indian states. Besides rape and murder, they include social excommunication, property damage, threats, physical assault, setting houses and churches on fire etc etc. Seems like the frightening and contagious crusade of religious nationalism and intolerance has now peaked at new inhuman altitudes.

The main reason for atrocities on Christians is that many of them do not report, fearing retribution from the tormentors and administrative machinery. Some cases in interior villages also go unreported because they are so cut off without electricity and phone connectivity. In the Northern part of India, there have been instances when policemen have asked peaceful worshipers, including pastors, not to go ahead with their religious meeting, saying it is not allowed in “Hindu Rashtra”. “Are we still ruled by the Constitution or the mob/miscreants which attacked houses, desecrated churches, objected to gospel-sharing even during the lockdown and beyond. Even though the fire setting and destroying of greenery in the recent incident in Pezar may not be communally oriented, it surely shows a hate crime against Christians/Catholics. A humble request to all these trouble mongers, please stop your hateful acts and respect every religion equally, thereby everyone can live peacefully and in harmony. Remember, if police are not watching you or catch and punish you, however, you will be watched by God and He will catch you and make you face severe consequences in your life. So STOP THE HATE CRIMES YOU ARE DOING AGAINST CHRISTIANS, BECAUSE WE ARE A PEACE LOVING AND GOD FEARING PEOPLE. THANK YOU!

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