Hindu extremists set fire to church in Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad, India – Hindu extremists have set fire to an Evangelical church in the village of Metpally, Karimnagar district in Andhra Pradesh, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported. The attack took place in the early hours of last Tuesday.

Local sources said a group of militants from the Hindu nationalist movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to the Jesus Lights Manna Church in Metpally around 2 am. After pouring petrol on the building, they set it on fire.

Most of the structure was damaged. A preliminary report said that the building’s main entrance door, the altar, window panels, church amplifier, service books and Bibles were burnt to ashes.

After being informed around 4 am by some witnesses of what had happened, the church’s pastor, Rev Mengu Elia, filed a first information report or FIR against Hindu radicals. Within 24 hours, the local BJP leader, Gangaram, was arrested along with other individuals involved in the fire.

The Metpally incident occurred in a region where a 48-hour strike was under way called by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in support of demands for the separation of the Telangana region from Andhra Pradesh (see “Telangana, a new Indian state, is given go ahead,” by CT Nilesh”, in AsiaNews, 10 December 2009).

The GCIC said that Hindu extremists were lucky because the attack against Jesus Lights Manna Church was initially blamed on the Telangana separatist movement.

Sajan K George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that his organisation “has documented 21 cases of anti-Christian attacks in the State of Andhra Pradesh.”

Many are against house churches used by non-denominational Christian pastors with a large following among Dalits.

These buildings “are routinely torched [. . .] , believers thrashed and often detained for hours in the police station, while outside the fundamentalists shout Hindu devotional slogans.”

According to the GCIC president, in Andhra Pradesh the “security of places of worship should be ensured” because “the vulnerable minority Christian community” continues to be targeted.