By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: A mob attacked a newly built church eight days after it was blessed in the southern Indian city of Secunderabad.
“Everything inside the church has been destroyed,” Father Aloysius Selvakumar, parish priest of St Joseph’s Church, Moula-ali, Secuderabad, told Matters India on May 22, a day after some 100 villagers attacked the Our Lady of Fatima Church, Godumakunta, a substation.
The mob stormed the church, broke the interiors, smashed statues and wrecked the place.
The priest said the attack took place around 9 am on Sunday and the police arrested around 20 people by the evening. The police said they took into custody ten people.
According to him, the church was built on a land donated by the lone Catholic family in Godumakunta, a suburb of the twin city of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, the capital of Telangana state.
The priest also said other villagers, all Hindus, objected to the church saying there was no need for it as there was only one Catholic family in the village. The parish, however, got permission from the local village body to build the church. It has also applied for permission for a church from the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, Father Selvakumar said.
Archbishop Thumma Bala of Hyderabad blessed the church on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. “The church construction is not over, but we blessed it because of the feast,” the priest explained.
The parish priest termed the incident as disturbing and painful. Mass was celebrated only occasionally in the desecrated church, he added.
Meanwhile pictures of the church’s damaged interior were circulated in social media platforms.
“We pray for those who did it and for those who are funding and protecting them that God may give them realization of the hate and violence that is being spread by their action that will possibly destroy our country,” says a message from the archdiocese.
The church falls under the limits of Keesaragutta police station and its officials said attack was the outcome of a land dispute. According to them, the owner of the land, George Reddy, had taken permission from the authorities to build a mini-function hall but later started to construct a church, which irked the villagers.
The police said the church blessing caught the villagers unawares.
“On Sunday morning, the people of the village held a meeting with their sarpanch and went to the church and ransacked it,” Keesaragutta sub-inspector M. Anantha Chary told local reporters.
“The permission for building a church on that land is pending,” he said. A case was booked against the mob under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for house trespass, causing damage, voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation, giving provocation with intent to cause riot.
Roydin Roach, national coordinator of the All India Catholic Union that represents about 21 million Catholics in India, said he has approached Director General of Police Anurag Sharma regarding the church attack.