India: Christians say a policeman burned down their church

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Christians in India’s central Chhattisgarh state accuse authorities of failing to take action against a policeman who burned down their church building and threatened to arrest them in a fabricated case and kill them if they continued to organize worship services.

The house church belonging to a tribal (aboriginal) Christian, Kadti Gurva of Kistaram village in Konta area of ​​Sukma district, was set on fire by a policeman identified as Sub-Inspector Bhavesh Shende from the police station of Kistaram in February, but no action has been taken against the officer, Morning Star News reported this week.

On February 3, the officer stormed into the church during a worship service and warned them against gatherings for prayer and worship, and threatened to accuse them of being communist “naxalites” or Maoist rebels.

A day later, the officer summoned Gurva and a church member named Turram Kanna to the police station where he ordered them to burn down their church. The two Christians refused.

“We refused to burn down the church,” they said in a complaint sent to the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. “And when we refused to do anything like that, he insulted us in foul language and threatened to kill us. He said he would wrongly book us…and send us to jail.

On February 5, the officer again summoned the two Christians and told them that he had initiated the burning of their church structure. “He told us he had burned down our place of worship and warned us not to do such a thing again. [meeting for prayer or worship]otherwise he will arrest us and send us to jail,” the complaint reads.

Two days later, Chhattisgarh Christian Forum President Arun Pannalal and church leaders met with Chhattisgarh Chief Police Officer and filed their complaint, demanding an investigation and the dismissal of Shende for burning the church. ‘church.

As of Saturday, no action had been taken against Officer Shinde.

“The government is hand in hand with the perpetrators of the violence,” Pannalal said. “Chhattisgarh Police have also been saffronized [color symbolic of Hindu nationalism]. Since the government is not taking the necessary measures, they [perpetrators] are encouraged to persecute Christians.

Christians make up only 2.3% of India’s population and Hindus about 80%. Hindu nationalists claim that Christians “force” or give financial advantages to Hindus to convert them to Christianity.

According to a report by the United Christian Forum, 2021 has been “the most violent year” for the country’s Christian population, which recorded at least 486 violent incidents of persecution last year.

The UCF attributed the high number of attacks to mobs who target Christians, brutally assault them, then file false claims of “illegal” conversions.

Police registered formal complaints in just 34 of the 486 cases, according to the UCF.

“Often, community slogans are seen outside police stations, where police stand as silent spectators,” the UCF report said.

“Hindu extremists believe that all Indians should be Hindus and the country should be rid of Christianity and Islam,” says an Open Doors fact sheet. “They use intensive violence to achieve this goal, particularly targeting Christians of Hindu origin. Christians are accused of following a “foreign faith” and blamed for bad luck in their communities.

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