By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
NEW DELHI (Worthy News) - Nearly four months after their thatched-roof church building was torched, Christian villagers in central India have expressed concern that the suspect has not been charged.
Investigators say an influential police officer, publicly identified as Bhavesh Shinde, was responsible for the February 5 attack on the church in Kistaram village of Chhattisgarh state.
Within days of the fire, church members submitted a written request for an inquiry and called for Shinde's dismissal, according to Christians involved in the case.
Affidavits were reportedly submitted by two villagers saying Shinde attempted to get them “to burn down the building.” However, he then allegedly informed them that he was responsible for setting the place of worship on fire.
Worthy News wasn’t able to reach the police officer for a reaction. But a complaint was also filed with India’s Human Rights Commission, Christians said. In late April, police finally took statements from witnesses after pressure was applied from the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum advocacy group.
Despite the complaints, Shinde reportedly threatened local Christians with arrest if they ever attempted to gather again for worship. Despite these threats, the church members have since rebuilt their building, Worthy News learned.
Christians said there are praying that authorities would take action against those responsible for the church destruction and that Christians keep and express their faith despite hardships.
As Christians in India comprise only about 2.3 percent of the country's mainly Hindu population of nearly 1.4 billion people, they face threats and acts of violence, rights groups say.
In 2021, the United Christian Forum documented at least 486 “violent incidents of persecution” throughout the country, calling it "the most violent year" for Christians. Of the hundreds of cases, formal police reports were only registered 34 times, according to human rights activists.