A church located in India’s Telangana state has been razed to the ground by suspected Hindu nationalists. The Grace Prayer House, which is attended by an estimated 180 Christians, was demolished in the early hours of 31st August.
The congregation is led by Pastor Shyam Kumar, who has been ministering in the area for the past eleven years. "At around 2:00am, my wife woke up with a start after hearing loud sounds outside," the pastor told Persecution Relief of the latest incident. "When we rushed out to check, we saw a few men from the community demolishing our Church building. They fled after seeing us."
This is not the first time the church has faced opposition - last year, the building was broken into during Sunday worship and congregants were forced from the building by a mob from a Hindu nationalist movement called the Sangh Parivar. The attackers had claimed ownership of the land by brandishing fake documentation, and had even lodged a police complaint against Pastor Kumar.
It is thought that the same group are behind this latest demolition. “In 2019, the same men who broke down our Church, interrupted our Sunday worship service, forced us out and locked up the Church," Kumar added. "We immediately filed a police complaint against them and the inquiry is ongoing.
Kumar added that the church was a "safe haven for underprivileged slum dwellers to pray and worship Jesus Christ together".
"Over a span of 10 years, we painstakingly contributed our all to build and maintain it," he added. "Now, it has been deviously taken away from us."
In response to the incident, Mervyn Thomas, founder of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “It is deeply concerning to see that the Grace Prayer House has been the subject of a targeted attack by the Sangh Parivar. Families depend on their local church as a place of hope and a source of joy and peace as they gather for collective prayer.
"The destruction of the property is an attempt to send a message to the Christian community in the village that their religion is unwelcome, and a direct violation of the community’s right to practice their religion. We call on the police to take concrete action against those who were behind the harassment of these Christians and the destruction of their place of worship, ensuring that justice is served.”