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Third Church in Andhra Pradesh, India Burned Down
Hindu Villagers Carry out Threats

ICC (January 10, 2007) – The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Hindu villagers in Andhra Pradesh state have burnt down an independent Christian church and its parsonage.

The incident took place in Pedda Demili village in Bamini area of Srikakulam district on December 1.

“The thatched church and parsonage built on government land was torched at about midnight while Pastor Vijay Kumar was away with his wife and a child to a relative’s house,” Sam Paul, a secretary of the All India Christian Council (AICC), told ICC.

Pastor Kumar had left the house in the evening after a prayer and fasting meeting at the church. Some villagers noticed thick smoke and flames coming out of the house, but did not have access to enough water to extinguish the fire, said Paul. These villagers promptly informed Pastor Kumar, but by the time he could reach the church, it was burnt to ashes. All the household items and musical instruments inside the building were completely charred.

The next morning, on December 2, Pastor Kumar went to the police station but could not get his complaint registered because the inspector was away. Paul said the AICC later helped Kumar to file a formal police complaint. “The police have assured that the victims will get justice,” he said. However, no one had been arrested.

Paul said four villagers, namely Garla Jogulu, Palaka Rama Rao, Palaka Sanjeeva Rao and Palaka Parvathi, all Hindu, had in September threatened Pastor Kumar that if he did not destroy the church and move out, they would set it on fire.

Two more churches were burnt in Andhra Pradesh recently. While Hindu fundamentalists torched a church in Dubbaka village of Nizamabad district on November 17, another church was found burnt in Roadduvalasa village in Vijayanagaram district on October 17.

Paul said at least seven incidents of violence against Christians were reported in November alone.

Christians in Andhra Pradesh believe the increasing incidence of Christian persecution in the state can be linked to a campaign by the Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) against the chief minister of the state, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who is a Christian.

In Andhra Pradesh, where the total population is more than 76 million, there are a little over one million Christians.