On June 12, 2020, an independent church in the state of Tamil Nadu, southern India, was set on fire on Friday night by unknown aggressors. The fire brought down the entire roof, affected the building structure, furniture, speaker boxes, and amplifier, causing damages estimated around US $2,700. While the reason for the attack is not yet apparent, members of the church suspect radical Hindu nationalists, who have been egregious in that region in the last few years.
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According to local sources, on the morning of June 13, Pastor Ramesh saw the flames and thick smoke coming out of the church. By that time, the roof, made of coconut leaves and bamboos, was completely burnt.
“I was shocked for a moment looking 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,” Pastor Ramesh told ICC.
Pastor Ramesh leads 100 members of the ‘Real Peace Church’ in Vaylur, Changalpattu district, for the last ten years. He explained this incident is part of persecution against Christians and their work in the district, as he also has been threatened to stop Christian practice in the region.
“After I recovered from the shock,” Ramesh said, “I filed a formal complaint with the police, and the police promised that they carry on the investigation.”
In 2017, in the same district, a pastor was murdered only 5 miles from where Pastor Ramesh leads the Real Peach Church in Vaylur. “This place has been a difficult place for Christians,” Ramesh said, “and their numerous instances where the Christians have been facing increased intimidations”.
The state of Tamil Nadu is known for its sizable Christian population yet ranked two in the national tally of the most hostile state for Christians to live. The church fire in Vaylur proves the reality of discrimination and assaults against Christians based on religion.