(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hundreds of Indian Christians protested outside the police headquarters in Delhi after a Catholic Church was severely burnt in a suspected arson attack.
The cause of the blaze at St. Sebastian’s Church on Monday morning is unknown, but the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said mischief" is suspected.
"The entire interior, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross were reduced to ashes," the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said in a statement.
St. Sebastian’s Church, which was constructed in 2001, is among the biggest churches in East Delhi, according to the Archdiocese. More than 600 families in the Dilshad Garden of Northeast Delhi watched as the church burned.
The church was active till Sunday night, before being burnt early Monday morning about 6.00 a.m.
“It is desecration of our religious place as well as our faith. The church has been damaged so badly that it needs to be rebuilt to be ready for prayers once again,” parish priest Friar Anthony Francis said in a statement, adding that “I urge believers not to indulge in any sort of violence and preserve the secular fabric of the country.”
While India is a primarily Hindu, it is officially designated as a secular nation. Christians comprise about 2.5 percent of the 1.2 billion person population.
After reports of the attack surfaced, police registered the case but members of the church community accused forensic teams of arriving too late to the scene.
Originally, the police blamed the incident on a faulty wire, but after today’s protests, police promised that a Special Investigations Team will look further into the incident and have registered the case against “unnamed” persons.
"Samples were retrieved from the inside of the church, which still smelt of fuel oil. Till late Monday evening, the police could not say they had made any progress in their investigations,'' the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese statement said.
The New Delhi Christian community protested outside the offices of the police commissioner to focus attention on the continued persecution of Christians in tribal and rural areas, according to the Archdiocese.
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