Christian persecution feared in Indian state after church is razed

(Photo: REUTERS / Adnan Abidi)A man holds sacred water during a religion conversion ceremony from Christianity to Hinduism at Hasayan town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh August 29, 2014.

A recent razing of a church in India has struck fear into the local Christian community who are feeling mounting religious violence in their area.

Police in India's Madhya Pradesh state, a Hindu-dominated area, are hunting down suspects who are behind the torching of the church in Mandla district on September 26, reports.

The Believers Church denomination sustained severe damage to its place of worship's structure.

Members of the congregation found out about the dismal state of their church when they gathered for morning prayers.

The pastor of the church spoke to authorities investigating the incident.

He said the attackers seemed to have broken entry to the church through its main door. Then the fire was started using a copy of the Bible, and the flames spread to the carpet, musical instruments and other items.

The flames were so powerful that it destroyed the walls of the church, wrote Pastor Rajesh Parthe in his complaint. He likewise recalled that the crosses outside the church were destroyed by attackers.

Human rights groups have called authorities for more attention in Madhya Pradesh, where religious violence has been a cause for concern.

Several community leaders said the attacks on Christians started to increase when the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power back in 2003 and again in 2014.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission repeatedly prodded on the state government to look into the actions of Hindu extremist groups for their suspected involvement in attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities.

"In the past decade of BJP rule in the state, we have recorded at least 200 major attacks against the Christian community, such as this," said Jerry Paul, general secretary of Isai Mahasangh, a Christian advocacy group based in the state capital, Bhopal.

He said, "There are many unrecorded [attacks]."

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