Fire destroys Protestant church in Tamil Nadu
by Nirmala Carvalho

The blaze burnt the thatched roof and doors of the Real Peace Gospel Church, which was built 10 years ago. The pastor, Rev Ramesh Jebaraj, believes it was premeditated. For the police, the cause is still unclear. GCCI president Sajan K George notes that extremists have continued to sow fear among Christians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chennai (AsiaNews) – Fire destroyed a Protestant church in Chengalpattu, a district in Tamil Nadu, last Saturday. The blaze burnt the thatched roof of the Real Peace Gospel Church, as well as its doors and part of the interior, musical instruments included.

The church was built ten years ago near the Palar River, about 110 km from the state capital of Chennai. The police have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but for Rev Ramesh Jebaraj, the pastor who runs the church, it was a premeditated act.

“We don't suspect anyone in particular,” he said. “People of all faiths come here to pray. Someone may have done it out of jealousy, but we forgive them,” he told local media.

Like Rev Jebaraj Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Christians of India (GCCI), believes that the incident in Tamil Nadu was arson.

“We are alarmed by this attack while the government is grappling with the pandemic crisis,” George told AsiaNews.

The GCCI president notes that during the pandemic, extremists have continued to sow fear among Christians.

"India is a secular democracy, and Christians are no threat to anyone” he explained. “We represent only 2.3 per cent of the population, and declining. Despite this, radical groups continue to attack and intimidate Pentecostals, burning their churches.”