India: acts of vandalism against churches during Christmas celebrations
By Lisa Zengarini
In the latest in a series of incidents of hostility teargeting Christians in India, a statue of Jesus at the entrance of a church in the Indian state of Haryana was vandalised by unidentified men on Christmas day.
Statue of the Redeemer destroyed
The desecration occurred in the evening in the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Ambala. By that time the ancient building was closed due to the curfew imposed to counter the latest COVID-19 wave. The next morning the statue of Christ the Reddemer was found broken. A complaint has been subsequenly filed with the police against two unidentified young men who were caught by CCTV cameras climbing over the surrounding wall.
Catholic church in Karnataka vandalized
In a previous incident a 160-year-old Catholic church in the Chikkaballapur district, in the state of Karnataka, was vandalized on the morning of December 22. Father Joseh Anthony Daniel, parish priest of the Church of San José in Susaipalya, about 65 km from Bangalore, told Fides Agency that unidentified people entered the church around 5,30 a.m., damaging sacred objects. The priest has filed a complaint and police is investigating.
Communal tensions in the State have increased recently following the introduction of a new anti-conversion bill which the local government approved on December 21, amidst strong protests of religious minorities (Christians and Muslims).
Other acts of religious intolerance also occurred in other parts of India during the Christmas festivities. In Gurugram, another city in Haryana State, a group of men claiming to be right wing activists allegedly barged into the premises of a church in Pataudi on Christmas Eve and disrupted the prayers, raising snti-Christian slogans.
In Assam, a mob disrupted a Christmas celebration in Cachar district on December 25, demanding that Hindus should not assist. Ten days earlier unidentified men had vandalized a Catholic church in a village in the same Indian State.
On Saturday, In the city of Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, Hindu activists burnt effigies of Santa Claus, accusing Christian missionaries of using Christmas to spread Christianity by distributing gifts to children.
Ahead of the Christmas festivities “Persecution Relief” group, an Indian Protestant organization advocating for the rights of Christians, addressed a letter to Interior Minister Rajnath Singh calling upon the Indian government provide protection for Christians during the celebrations.