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Christians Protest Attacks Against Churches in India’s Chattisgarh State

BosNewsLife - Christian leaders have urged government officials to end widespread attacks by Hindu militants against churches in India 's tense state of Chattisgarh and arrest those responsible, news reports said Wednesday, September 21. A delegation from the Raipur Fellowship, an association of local pastors, discussed the situation with State Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam on September 16 and submitted a memorandum of protest, said Compass Direct, a Christian news agency.

It came as Christians reportedly held five days of rallies last week against anti Christian violence after Hindu extremists destroyed property at one church and struck worshippers at another on September 11, the day when many people around the world commemorated the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States .

"Hindu extremists" belonging to the Dharam Sena or 'Army of Religion' carried out the assaults, church officials said. Dharam Sena is an offshoot of the influential Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or 'World Hindu Council' organization. The VHP has not confirmed the September 11 attacks.

In a published memo to the government, the Christian delegation demanded "the prompt arrest of the accused in the two recent attacks on churches; proper security for places of Christian worship; and an investigation into numerous cases of anti-Christian violence in the state."

The memo also called for a ban on "religious fundamentalist organizations," Compass Direct quoted delegation member Rakesh Jayaraj as saying. “While receiving the memorandum, the minister asked us to stop the protest rally and assured us that he would promptly look into our demands,” Jayaraj told Compass.

The militants allegedly stormed into the Teacher Disciple Vineyard church in the Jagannath Nagar area tearing the cross off the building and throwing it into a septic tank. Militants also broke chairs, a gas cylinder and a water pump. Repairs will cost approximately 50,000 rupees ($1,140), church officials said.

The Teacher Disciple Vineyard church was reportedly still under construction, and a few church members were inspecting the site when the attack took place. In August, 50 Hindu militants from the Dharam Sena attacked the same church and demolished the boundary wall and the cross because the church "had encroached on land belonging to one of their leaders, Sandeep Tiwari," Compass Direct quoted church officials as saying. The church has denied the accusations.

A local court ordered that neither church members nor members of the extremist group are allowed to enter the building till dispute is resolved. On September 11, Hindu extremists also punched and verbally harassed members of the Christian Evangelist Assembly Full Gospel Church , Compass Direct reported.

"Three people from the Dharam Sena attended our worship service on September 11,” Pastor Anup Philip of the church was quoted as saying by Compass Direct. “As I was preparing for the communion, other members of the Sena came and started shouting outside the church, thinking the service was over."

"When my wife and my brother went out to see why there was a loud noise outside the church, the miscreants attacked, punched and slapped them, accusing the church of conversions.” Philip but did not file official charges, saying he had "forgiven the attackers," Compass Direct said.

Christians in the area fear more violence as the VHP has reportedly alleged that 47 churches in the state were "illegally" build, charges church leaders strongly deny. (With reports from India ).

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