The Diocese of Jalandhar has decided to close all its schools on September 1 following the attack on a Catholic church in Patti near Tarn Taran in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
“We call upon everyone to work toward peace and harmony between all religions,” read a message from Agnelo Gracias, apostolic administrator of the diocese, on Wednesday, August 31.
The school closure came a day after still unidentified perpetrators vandalized an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and torched a vehicle belonging to a Catholic priest.
Sectarian tension flared after the incident, said a report on Matters India.
Radio Veritas Asia, meanwhile, reported a separate incident in the northeast state of Meghalaya where statues in one of the oldest churches in the Garo Hills District were also vandalized.
The report said statues of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph were desecrated. The attackers also tried to damage a crucifix on the church wall.
The incident took place on August 22.
Targeted attacks on pastors and nuns have been noted in recent months across the country.
The Indian government, however, denied that any “targeted” attacks on Christians have happened and accused groups that filed a complaint before the Supreme Court of hidden motives.
A study done by the United Christian Forum showed that at least 127 cases of violence against Christians were documented in the first 103 days of 2022 in India.
In 2021, there were 486 attacks reported, an 80 percent increase from 2020.
Christians in India make up only 2.3 percent of the total population, but some Hindu fundamentalist groups consider them as a threat and symbol of foreign, colonial religion.
The size of the Christian community relative to the country’s population has either been static or declining since 1971, official data show.
The 1971 census estimated that Christians accounted for 2.6 percent of India’s population. By 2001, this figure dropped to 2.3 percent.