Bishops in India have condemned a series of attacks on Africans in New Delhi, calling it a disturbing trend and against Indian culture.
“Africans and for that matter nationals of any country are our esteemed guests. Treat them as per our culture,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said in a press statement.
Stating that Indians believe in the saying “Atithi devobhava” (“guest is our god”), he appealed to people to maintain peace and brotherhood, ucanews.com reported.
Masonda Ketada Olivier from Congo was beaten to death on 20 May after an argument over hiring an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi. Olivier, 29, was a French-language teacher at a private institute in the city.
In a possible reaction to the incident, shops belonging to a few Indians living in Congo were attacked, leaving some business owners and workers injured.
Seven African men and women subsequently were attacked on 28 May in New Delhi. The victims told police the attackers yelled racial slurs and beat them with cricket bats, sticks and rods.
Police arrested five people in connection with the assaults and described the attacks as “isolated incidents” and were not racist in nature.
“The Indian government needs to assure proper safety and security to these people and the culprits need to be brought to (justice),” said Fr Jaison Vadassery, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for labor, told ucanews.com.
Indians, too, are migrants to other countries and such incidents can have harmful repercussions, he explained.
“It will diminish the image of the country at international level,” Father Vadassery added.
His labour office is part of the Pontifical Council of Migrants and Travelers at the Vatican and is involved with foreign migrant issues in India. “We are supposed to respond to these issues,” Fr Vadassery said.
“We invite people from other countries for study purposes, so adequate measures should be taken for their safety,” he said.
Thousands of Africans work or study in India. Incidents in the recent past have raised concerns about racism and discrimination.
A Tanzanian student in February was brutally assaulted and partially stripped by a mob in Bangalore. A law minister in 2014 was accused of leading a vigilante mob against African women, accusing them of being sex workers. A year earlier, a Nigerian was killed by a mob in the tourist state of Goa. A state minister there described Nigerians as a “cancer”.
Following the 20 May murder, media reported India’s minister for tourism and culture, Mahesh Sharma, saying that such incidents happen in other parts of the world too and that even Africa is not safe.