Hindu radicals attack old church

Saoner, India - Armed Hindu radicals attacked a century-old church in India during a service to protest against religious conversions.

The late 19th century church, which comes under the Church of Scotland Missions, is situated barely half-a-mile from the nearest police station in Saoner, in the state of Maharashtra.

Rev Mark Sakharpekar had just begun his sermon when the men attacked, triggering panic among the worshippers.

A trident was hurled at Mr Sakharpekar, but he escaped unhurt. Two women received minor injuries.

Mr Sakharpekar said: “It was a merciless attack. I was shocked to see them barge into the church with sticks and weapons during the worship. They hurled a sharp trident at me.

“Some of them were known faces. One Pandit Bharadwaj even brandished a pistol to intimidate me.”

Saoner police told the Times of India that about 10 minutes before the attack, a few people claiming to belong to a unit from radical Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad came to the police station.

They had handed over an application asking for action to be taken against religious conversions in Saoner. The group also warned of a strong movement against the church's action of allegedly targeting economically weaker sections and converting them to Christianity through enticements.