Catholics call Assam church attack a hate crime

Light of truth

Church officials in India want police to conduct a thorough probe into an attack on a Catholic Church in Assam, saying it could be part of a plan to create religious-based divisions in the north-eastern state ahead of Christmas.

Parishioners of St Thomas Church in Chapatoli, in Dibrugarh Diocese said they found their church vandalized on Dec. 15.

The church’s crucifix, stations of the cross and prayer books were allegedly destroyed, while a Marian statue was removed from its plinth in a grotto and thrown to the floor. “Somebody did this to destroy a harmonious atmosphere in this area,” parish priest Fr Cyprian Lakra told.

Nothing like this has happened before at the 88-year-old church, he added.

Despite police arresting two “drunk” men in connection with the vandalism, church officials believe those arrested were scapegoats and that the motive behind the attack was more sinister.

The arrests “appear to be a knee jerk reaction rather than attempt to identify the original culprits,” said Father G. P. Amalraj, deputy secretary of regional bishops’ council.

Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh demanded “a high-level inquiry” and said “certain forces with ulterior motives were seeking to sow seeds of hatred” among peace loving people living in the tea garden areas of the state.

Other Christian leaders like him suspect a political motive behind the attack with similar incidents being reported since a pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition came to power in the state in 2016.

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