By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Evangelical Christians in India’s eastern state of Andhra Pradesh faced the difficult task Sunday, May 10, of rebuilding their church after suspected anti-Christian militants torched the building, the latest in a series of attacks against churches in the area, investigators said.
United States-based International Christian Concern (ICC) said Sunday, May 10, an anti-Christian group set fire to the Holy Spirit Church of God Ministry Church in the state earlier this week.
ICC quoted witnesses as saying that the church’s main door “was demolished and the interior of the church was set on fire” in Tuesday’s attack.
“The fire destroyed wooden furniture, the pulpit and wooden bars supporting the roof. The roof currently appears to be intact despite the lack of supports holding it up,” said ICC citing sources in the region.
The church leader, identified only as Reverend Clinton apparently for security concerns, said in a statement that several days earlier a nearby church was destroyed “in the same manner” by activists of the Hindu-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People’s Party. “While this is a copycat incident, it is not likely that the same group is responsible for both attacks,” ICC explained.
Neighbors reportedly noticed the fire at 2am local time and immediately alerted the pastor and church members. “Several members of the church rushed to the spot to put out the fire, but were unable to rescue anything from inside the church,” ICC said.
Pastor Clinton and the elders of the church informed police about the incident, but police have so far not detained suspects, according to rights investigators. “Pastor Clinton is concerned that the fire might have been set by the neighbouring land owner, who has in the past indicated his desire to build apartments on the church property,” ICC added.
The latest incident has underscored an anti-Christian climate in several parts of India, a predominantly Hindu nation of over one billion people, BosNewsLife monitored.