India police arrest three after latest church attack

2016-03-06 22:49


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Raipur - Police in central India arrested three men after a gang attacked a church during Sunday mass, an investigator said, in the latest attack against Christians in the religiously diverse country.

Women and children were injured after a group of about 50 men barged into the church in Kachna village near Raipur, the state capital of Chhattisgarh.

Witnesses told AFP the crowd of young men stormed into the church chanting slogans and demanding that the church be shut down.

"About 40-50 people, who had covered their faces with cloth, attacked the gathering and damaged the chair and musical instruments," said local Shiv Kumar.

Raipur district police chief Badri Narayan Meena said three men had been arrested over the attack, while a hunt was on to find the others.

"A preliminary case has been registered against the miscreants for rioting and defiling a place of worship," said Meena.

A police source said the attackers were angry because they had heard the church had been used to convert local villagers to Christianity.

The attack is the latest in a string of assaults on Christian places of worship that have heightened tensions over religious freedom in Hindu-majority India.

Last year, vandals wrapped a dog chain around the neck of a Virgin Mary statue in the northern tourist city of Agra.

Priests and other Christian leaders have blamed the attacks on religious hardliners, who they say have become emboldened since Narendra Modi's right-wing government swept to power in 2014.

A series of recent mass conversions of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism, allegedly by Hindu hardliners, have also raised concern.

Around 80% of India's 1.2 billion population is Hindu, but it is also home to large numbers of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.

Read more on:    india  |  religion

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