Church attacked in India’s tech hub in Karnataka. Statue of Saint Anthony was broken by unidentified vandals inside church premises in Bangalore Archdiocese
A Catholic church was vandalized in the southern Indian state of Karnataka even as lawmakers were debating the enactment of a law to prevent religious conversions.
“A statue of Saint Anthony was found broken in St. Joseph Church in Bangalore Archdiocese on Dec. 23 morning,” said J.A. Kantharaj, archdiocesan public relations officer.
“We have no clue who could be behind the attack,” he told UCA News, adding that the parish priest had already lodged a complaint with police who visited the church.
St. Joseph Church is more than 150 years old and it is suspected that Hindu vigilantes may have been behind the attack as part of a well-orchestrated strategy to corner the Christian minority across Karnataka.
Indian news agency ANI said a first information report has been registered by the rural police station against unknown persons for vandalizing Saint Anthony’s statue in Chickaballapur district, about 65 kilometers from state capital Bengaluru, known globally as the information technology capital of India.
Of late, the southern state ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become one of the hotspots for anti-Christian violence, with Hindu groups accusing the minority community and its institutions of carrying out religious conversions.
Karnataka has witnessed many churches and prayer houses being attacked by Hindu vigilante groups even as the state police authorities look the other way. On Dec. 4, an unidentified man armed with a machete barged into a church in Belagavi and chased the priest in charge.
On Dec. 21, the ruling BJP tabled the controversial Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, in the state assembly, ignoring opposition from Congress and other opposition parties.
A group of Christians staged a protest against the bill in Bengaluru on Dec. 22. They fear an increase in violence against them and attacks on their institutions if the proposed law comes into force.
Archbishop Peter Machado, who led the protest, told media that “the anti-conversion bill is anti-Christian” as it “does target Christians specifically.”
Questioning the provisions of the bill, he said the proposed law had such stringent clauses that even doing charity work would be a crime. “Even giving free education or a fee waiver to help poor students can be treated as a violation of the law,” he said.
Christians make up 1.87 percent of Karnataka’s population of 68.4 million. A fact-finding report by a Protestant group in India has documented 39 violent attacks on Christians since January.