07/03/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Madhya Pradesh: Hindu extremists burn down Pentecostal church

This is the second place of worship to be destroyed in the same district. Bibles found inside were also burned. The Catholic Church has expressed solidarity and concern about what happened.

Bhopal (AsiaNews) – A group of fanatical Hindus have set a Pentecostal Church on fire in Madhya Pradesh, destroying bibles that were inside and threatening to kill the pastor. The incident took place during the afternoon on 30 June in Shivani, in the southern district of Harda.

The extremists broke into the place of worship with torches in hand and set fire to a table which had 150 bibles and hymn books on it. The pastor of the church, Jaidi Khan, escaped unharmed, but he was powerless to stop the razing of the church, which happened shortly afterwards.

"We are worried about the number of attacks that are taking place in Madhya Pradesh. It is to be noted that in the past few months, they have increased, to the extent that extremists raped two young women to force them to abandon their Christian faith," said Fr Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference.

"However, persecution has always strengthened faith and Christian communities: we will stand together to fight this violence."

The Archbishop of Bhopal, Mgr Pascal Topno, expressed "shock and dismay" over the incident, but urged the community not to lose the courage that has characterised it for so many years.

A.P. Meman, a member of the Council of Indian Christians, said: "The Union Minister for Minority Affairs has been approached to send an investigating team to Madhya Pradesh to discover who is responsible for the burning down of the second church in the same district."

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