Indian church vandalised just days after Christmas amid spurt in attacks on Christians

A church was vandalised and a statue of baby Jesus was left damaged in India’s southwestern Karnataka state, just two days after Christmas celebrations.

The St Mary’s church in Mysuru city was defaced on Tuesday, according to the police, who are tracing surveillance footage to identify the accused.

The suspect reportedly entered the church after breaking into the back door. The staff noticed the damage to the church at 6pm local time and intimated the pastor, who filed a complaint with the local police.

The stolen money from the church’s donation box led the police to suspect the vandalism to be an act of theft, based on a first impression. “We have formed special teams and the probe is underway,” superintendent of police Seema Latkar said.

Police said the vandalism cannot be concluded as an attack on the church as the other statues of Jesus were left untouched.

“There is no CCTV camera installed on the church premises. The nearest CCTV is located at a school and we are going through visuals for further probe,” The Indian Express newspaper quoted a police officer as saying.

There have been a spate of targeted attacks on Christians, churches and missionaries across the country around the festive season over allegations of forced conversions.

Just a day earlier, a police complaint was slapped against a Christian pastor in the northern Uttar Pradesh (UP) state. A right-wing activist alleged in his complaint that the pastor was “enticing” a crowd of 100 people to “convert to Christianity”.

The incident followed after a similar one in the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand last week, in which a Christmas programme was attacked by a group of men for allegedly converting people to Christianity.

A man dressed up as Santa Claus was beaten by a mob of Hindu nationalists in prime minister Narendra Modi's western home state Gujarat on 20 December. The man was forced to remove the costume and others were reportedly threatened for celebrating the festival.

More than 100 tribal Christians in the central Chattisgarh state had to take shelter in a stadium amid reports of attack on the community.

According to a group of civil society members, there was an “organised campaign” to forcibly convert Christian tribals into Hinduism in the state's Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts.

Earlier this month, there was a series of attacks in about 18 villages in the Narayanpur district and 15 villages in the Kondagaon district, which displaced over 1,000 Christian tribals, said Brijendra Tiwari, convener of the All India People’s Forum, Chhattisgarh.

“Many Christian Adivasis (tribals) were gravely assaulted and beaten with lathis (sticks), tyres, and rods. At least two dozen people had to be hospitalised with injuries like fracture of the collar bone,” the group alleged.

State authorities have denied that the violence was linked to religious conversion.

“It is not true that the administration ignored the violence. We have registered seven first information reports at various police stations, and the accused have been arrested,” Narayapur collector Ajeet Vasant told The Hindustan Times newspaper.

“Secondly, 500 people of the community were displaced, of which around 250 were sent back to their villages and they have been provided security.

“The administration is also making arrangements to bring the rest back to their villages.”