Monday, March 16, 2015
Police blame ‘outside’ elements in latest India church attack
A weekend attack on a church in northern India may have been carried out by ‘outside’ elements, according to police.
The Believers Church in Kaimari village in the Hisar district of Haryana state was vandalized on Sunday and its cross left broken. In addition, a statue of the Hindu God Hanuman was placed inside the church and a flag featuring a Hindu symbol was hung outside the building.
“Some antisocial elements from outside might have been involved in the incident,” investigating officer Ramesh Chand told ucanews.com. “The situation is peaceful [now]. There has never been a Christian-Hindu dispute in the area.”
The pastor of the church, Subhash Chand, lodged a complaint against 14 people in the village after the incident. He could not be reached for comment.
Ramesh Chand said that no arrests had been made yet, but assured that “investigations are going on and the culprits will be brought to book”.
According to Kaimari village head Satya Narain, the pastor had moved to the area more than a year ago and purchased two plots on which to build a house.
“Nobody had any objection to him staying there but he was categorically told not to preach the religion there, as there is no Christian family in the village,” Narain told ucanews.com.
Narain said that about a month prior to the incident, it came to light that the pastor had attempted to convert some local villagers.
“We confronted the pastor who promised to remove the cross from the building and not preach the religion in the area,” he said.
Narain stressed that local villagers were “not involved in the attack…. We have no problem with the pastor living with us in the village. We want peace in the area.”
“Some people from outside might have taken advantage of the situation,” he said, adding that recently representatives from the pro-Hindu group Bajrang Dal had inquired about Christian activities in the village and if a church was being built in the area.
Sunday’s incident in Kaimari comes amid increased attacks against Christians and their religious institutions across the predominantly Hindu country.
On Friday, an elderly nun was gang-raped and a convent ransacked in eastern West Bengal state.
Last week, a Christian burial service was thwarted in the Faridabad district of Haryana state and the people who attended the service were beaten up by Hindu nationalists.
Late last month, police arrested 20 people for distributing Christian literature in northern Rajasthan state, while in the south Indian state of Karnataka a group of unidentified suspects threw stones at a prayer hall of the Mangalore diocese, smashing the protective glass pane of a Marian statue.
“The Hisar church attack is not an isolated incident. There is a clear pattern,” Vijyesh Lal, secretary of the United Christian Forum, told ucanews.com.
Responding to the allegations of the villagers that the pastor was trying to convert some people in the village, Lal said that conversion is illegal in India only if it is done by force or fraudulent means.
“Why was the pastor not allowed to run a church in the village? This is totally unconstitutional,” he said.
Lal said the conversion allegations were an attempt by the accused villagers to counter the complaint made against them for allegedly damaging the church.
“These all are attempts to polarize the society on communal lines and create social unrest,” he added.
Meanwhile, Delhi archbishop Anil JT Couto condemned the church attack.
“Any form of violence in the name of religion needs to be stopped immediately through a collective and strong political will by the governments, both at central and state levels,” the archbishop said in a statement.
He called for immediate action by the local police and civil authorities to stop hate campaigns against the Christian community.
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