Catholic officials in the northern Indian state of Punjab have clarified that an attack on a church could be the work of burglars, dispelling doubts about a possible hate attack.
Police confirmed that a fiberglass sheet was found missing from the window of the Catholic church at Nadanpur village in Jalandhar district on the morning of Sept. 29.
The incident drew parallels with last month's incident at a church in the Tarn Taran district that was vandalized by anti-social elements, but Father John Paul, in charge of the church clarified that it could be the burglars who also targeted two houses in the same locality on the previous night.
“Kindly refrain from connecting it to previous incidents of the recent past,” Father Paul said.
Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, the apostolic administrator of the Jalandhar diocese, in a letter addressed to priests, nuns and laity, urged them not to entertain any rumor that may vitiate the atmosphere, but rather work together for peace and harmony.
Senior Superintendent of Police Swarandeep Singh said no complaint was registered yet and people should refrain from spreading rumors.
The Tarn Taran incident was a case of church vandalism reported on Aug. 31 where the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus were damaged by unknown people who also set fire to the car belonging to Father Thomas Poochalil, parish priest of Infant Jesus Catholic Church, Patti.
A day before the incident, Giani Harpreet Singh, head of Akal Takht, one of the highest seats of power for the Sikhs, had condemned alleged forced conversions by Christian groups in Punjab province and demanded a law against such activities.
Earlier, a group of armed Nihang Sikhs reportedly disrupted an event organized by Christians at a village in the Amritsar district on Aug. 28.
The growing number of churches and churchgoers in the Sikh-majority state in north India has led to sporadic friction with Sikh religious organizations who accuse Christians of using forceful and fraudulent means of conversion.
Punjab, bordering Pakistan, is a Sikh-majority state.
The rate of conversion to Christianity is on the rise in recent decades and it is said that Christians now constitute 10 percent of Punjab's population of 28 million.