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10-y-o independent Protestant church destroyed by fire in TN, cause unclear
Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 23:10 (IST)
Unknown aggressors in Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu set a decade-old independent protestant church on fire that destroyed everything inside the building and brought down the thatched roof.
Reverend Ramesh Jebaraj, who runs the church, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that he was shocked to look at the church engulfed with flames and smoke.
"I was broken, and it was so painful, there was absolutely no way to save anything from inside the church. The church structure, instruments, and furniture inside the church are ten years of hard labor," he explained.
Though the reason for the blaze was not apparent, Rev Jebaraj sees it as a premeditated act as he has been receiving threats to stop all Christians practices is his "Real Peace Gospel Church" since the time it started 10 years ago.
The Christian leader told local media that "This appears to be a planned attack. We don't suspect anyone in particular. People of all faiths come here to pray. Someone may have done it out of jealousy, but we forgive them."
Rev Jebaraj has, however, filed a formal complaint with the police, and the police investigating the matter told local media that "We have not found any motive yet. Local community has no problem. We are going to register a case of accidental fire."
Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Christians of India (GCCI), believes the incident was an arson.
"We are alarmed by this attack while the government is grappling with the pandemic crisis," the Christian leader told AsiaNews.
"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."
Since the nationwide lockdown was announced in March, no services were held in the Real Peace Gospel Church. But even during COVID-19 pandemic, the extremists continue to spread fear among Christians, George said.