Indian Christians protest after alleged church arson attack


Christians in Delhi are protesting after a Catholic church was destroyed in a fire that they believe to be a malicious attack.

The fire at St Sebastian's Church in Dilshad Garden, East Delhi started on Monday morning, and destroyed much of the main sanctuary and the altar, although no casualties were reported.

According to The Hindu, police are investigating the case as an arson attack after an allegation from parish priest, Fr Anthony Francis.

The police are also considering a possible short-circuit as the cause of the fire which has desecrated the church that was built in 2001.

Media director for the Delhi archdiocese, Fr Stanley Kozhichira, told Firstpost: "it was not an accident but a deliberate act," alleging that kerosene bottles had been found in the sanctuary.

Fr Kozhichira added that he thought it was a "well-designed conspiracy hatched by anti-social groups to snatch the fundamental right of worship".

Protestors held a candle-lit vigil on Monday evening and on Tuesday morning around 200 people protested outside the Police Commissioner's office, blocking traffic in the surrounding roads.

A statement from the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said: "The Christian community cutting across denominations and civil society have decided to protest at the offices of the Police Commissioner of Delhi on Tuesday morning to focus attention on the attempts to polarise the people in Delhi State, which goes to the polls soon, and the continued persecution of Christians in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other tribal and rural areas."

The Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an inquiry into the incident.