Mob Disrupts Christian Gathering at Malad

Nov 11, 2002 03:00 AM EST

Malad, India - Around 25 to 30 people carrying anti-conversion placards disrupted the Holy Spirit Conference being held at the Ryan International School, Malad, at around 6.45 pm yesterday. Witnesses said the intruders broke chairs, vases, mikes and a bus's windows.

After they were dispersed, the conference, attended by over 4,000 Christians, resumed at around 7.30 pm.

Stanley Albuquerque tried resisting the mob at the school's gates. "They pushed open the gate and came in," he said. Six people then held him while the others ran in, he added.

"The whole thing was over in about ten minutes," Albuquerque said. "They threw down chairs and a video camera. They also climbed onto the stage and broke the windows of a bus."

Savi Galban from Kalina was sitting near the back with nine family members. "I heard them shouting slogans. Then they came in and started throwing chairs. I gathered my family and ran out," he said.

M P Varghese, who couldn't move quickly because of an injured leg, said he and his wife were sitting in the middle of the gathering. "They ran in carrying placards and threatened people. They broke chairs, vases, mikes and started throwing the pamphlets kept near the stage. Everyone started running. We also started moving out," he said.

Police said they were unable to identify the group responsible for the disturbance, but added it could have been local residents.

Shashikant Shinde, deputy commissioner of police, said, "The sounds from the conference must have led residents to believe that people were being duped with false promises of miracles."

He said that aside from breaking items, the intruders also abused members of the audience.

Vishwas Ghadigaonkar, Shiv Sena shakha pramukh of the area, said, "They have meetings every weekend in the school. I think residents must have got weary and disrupted the conference."

Earlier, Ghadigaonkar had written a letter to the school's principal protesting against 'religious activities' being held on its premises after classes.

"I requested a meeting with the principal, but she has not yet responded," he said.

By Albert H. Lee