TRN Bureau, New Delhi: Foul play has been suspected after a fire destroyed a Catholic church in Delhi. The mysterious fire on Monday morning reduced to ashes, St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden that lies on the eastern extreme of the national capital. “The fire has completely charred the sanctuary, sacristy and the first floor balcony,” Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of Delhi archdiocese, told Matters India.
The news about the fire brought hundreds of people to the church situated outside the residential areas. The crowd stood on the road before the church building and prayed for peace and communal harmony. After they marched to the local police station and staged a sit-in to protest police’s alleged slackness in dealing with the lawsuit.After police officials promised to send a forensic team to probe the fire, the demonstrators shifted the venue to a road intersection near the Guru Teg Bahadursingh Hospital.
The fire seemed to have occurred between 5:30 am and 6:30 am during the guard change. The fire brigade came around 7:45 and doused the flame. The church was opened on December 30, 2001, by then Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi. It belongs to the Delhi Latin rite archdiocese but also serves as a worship place for the Syro-Malabar Catholics living in and around Dilshad Garden, one of the largest residential areas in Delhi.
Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, who travelled to the church, stated he suspected sabotage. The Syro-Malabar prelate said he had conducted Holy Communion and Confirmation for 17 children on Sunday. “It was painful to see the altar and sanctuary burned down the following day,” the prelate told Matters India.
The archbishop also said it was quite apparent that the blast was not innate. “All Christian communities are aggrieved over this incident,” he appended.
Veer Singh Diwas, a former legislator who rushed to the church, said the fire was preplanned. He told newsmen that he establish a window along the first floor open and somebody might have thrown some inflammable material into the church through that gap. “We demand a complete inquiry into this incident,” he added.
The politician accused the police and administration for taking up the matter seriously. “It is real distressing that no police officer has come to the church even after four hours of reporting the case. Why is the administration so inactive? Whose permission do they need to take action?” he asked.
He condemned the incident as an attack on Christians, “a peaceful and responsible community” with whom he has worked for more than 15 years. Father Kozhichira also agreed that the fire was a “purposeful attack on a holy place of a minority community. It is a shameful act of desecrating people’s faith,” he added.
The incident came in the backdrop of Delhi getting ready to elect its legislative assembly. The capital witnessed in October localized sectarian violence at three different places. Fr Kozhichira said they found kerosene in the church’s attic and suspect that someone had used inflammable material to put fire to the church. “A natural fire would not be like this,” he insisted and pointed out that they found the fuse below under the balcony intact. “The scent of kerosene was still solid even after four hours,” he appended.
The priest said they would resist until they receive justice. “Our Constitution gives us the freedom to practice our faith and propagate it,” he added. Jitender Singh Shunty, who represents Shahdara constituency in the Delhi Legislative Assembly, and Preeti Behan, local councilors, also visited the church to study the situation.
Later, talking to media person, Shunty said he had inspected the scene and was convinced it was “a deliberate” act. “They have destroyed each and every item, taking enough time. Whoever has done should be arrested soon,” the legislator said.
“This incident has hurt the sentiments of our Christian brothers, who are a peaceful community,” he said and added that any attack on a place of worship is an abominable act.
Courtesy: Matters India