ASIA/INDIA - Catholic church vandalized in Punjab

Wednesday, 31 August 2022 religious minorities   violence   extremism  

Patti (Agenzia Fides) - A Catholic church has been the victim of an attack in the Indian state of Punjab, in the north of the country. A statue of the Virgin Mary was damaged and a priest's vehicle was burned in Patti.
According to Father Thomas Poochalil, parish priest, the attack occurred in the early hours of August 31, 2022, shortly after midnight in the compound of the Catholic Church of the Child Jesus, in the diocese of Jalandhar. A mob of unidentified assailants hit the Pietà statue in front of the church and set fire to a car in the complex. They chanted while chanting slogans like "we are Khalistani". The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement that seeks to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called "Khalistan" in the Punjab region.
"The police have been informed and the investigation is ongoing. We ask for support and prayers in this time of pain for all of us who will remain in the complex", said Fr. Poochalil. "We ask for the intercession of our protector, Our Lady Queen of Peace, so that peace and tranquility prevail and as soon as possible the guilty are brought to justice", he adds.
In recent years, there have been different episodes of violence against churches and ecclesiastical personnel, such as priests, nuns, pastors and Christians from different churches in various states of India. However, the federal government denies that there is specific violence against Christians. The United Christian Forum (UCF), a think tank made up of Christians of various denominations, documented 127 cases of violence against Christians in the first 103 days of 2022 in India, while in 2021, 486 cases of attacks were documented. In India, 2.3% of the approximately 1.4 billion population are Christians. (SD/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 31/8/2022)