Marian image vandalized, priest’s vehicle torched in India’s Punjab state

Targeted attacks on pastors and nuns have been noted in recent months across the country

An image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was vandalized and a vehicle belonging to a Catholic priest was torched in the northern Indian state of Punjab on August 31.

A report on Matters India said the incident happened in a Catholic church in the town of Patti.

Father Thomas Poochalil, parish priest of Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Patti, was quoted reporting the “shocking incident” that took place about 12:45 in the morning.

The priest said the culprits pointed a gun at the security guards and attacked the church, shouting “We are Khalistanis.”

The parish comes under the Diocese of Jalandhar and the town is about 50 kilometers south of Amritsar, the holy city of Sikhs.

Father Poochalil said the parish has already informed the police who have started investigation into the incident.

He also appealed for prayers to bring peace to the area.

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.

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