Hindu nationalists attack 5 churches with help of policeman

(Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai February 9, 2015.

A Hindu nationalist group carried out attacks on five churches in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Sunday with the help of a police officer.

According to World Watch Monitor, members of the Tamil Nadu-based organization Hindu Munnani, led by their district secretary, Thangam Venkatesh, started raiding churches early in the morning and assaulted Christians as they worshipped.

"At about 9am, Venkatesh went to the prayer hall and abused the pastor, Ravi Jacob. He used extremely vulgar language, and then turned on his wife, Persis," said John J.Y. Arul, Chairman of Madurai District Pastors' Fellowship.

"The extremists were aggressive and uncontrollable. In front of children and others in the church, they savagely beat up Jacob and Persis. They removed Persis' saree and repeatedly kicked her in the face," he added.

Arul narrated that the police officer had started to take part in abusing the Christians when the pastor's wife cried out for help.

"I can't repeat the words they used against Persis. We were shocked by their inhuman behaviour. When Persis was crying for help, the police guard with the Munnani leader asked her to 'prostrate herself at the feet of Thangam Venkatesh and plead for his forgiveness," Arul continued.

The mob went on to attack four other churches, where they stripped and beat other Christians. Three women, aged between 23 and 51, were stripped and beaten when the group attacked the Bethesda Worship Center.

When one victim tried to file a complaint with the police, she was told that they could "only take one complaint per church" and the pastor had already lodged a complaint.

The mob also issued a threat against Bethesda's pastor, Jerome Jagatheesan, saying "you will be brutally murdered in five days."

World Watch Monitor reported that complaints about the attacks were made at Koodal Pudur and Alanganallur police stations, but the police refused to register the case. A Community Service Register receipt was issued by the Koodal Pudur police, but they reportedly concealed the identity of Thangam Venkatesh and the Hindu Munnani members.

Around 200 pastors later demanded the filing of a First Information Report against the Hindu Munnani activists.

The attacks against Christians in India has been continuously rising in recent years. This year, India has been ranked on Open Doors' World Watch List as the 11th country where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year.

Open Doors noted that the source of persecution of Christians in India depends on location, but most of it comes from Hindu radical groups and organizations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena and Vishya Hindu Parishad (VHP).

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