Updated: May 23, 2017 02:25 PM GMT
Our Lady of the Fatima Church in Kundapalli village, Telangana State, was vandalized by a 100-strong mob on May 21. Twenty-two people have since been arrested. (ucanews.com photo)
Arrests have been made after a mob vandalized a newly-built Catholic church in the southern Indian state of Telangana State.
Police say they have arrested 22 people from a crowd of over 100 people who vandalized the Lady of Fatima Church in Kundapalli village. They broke statues of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, the crucifix and left furniture in disarray.
"All the attackers belong to the village where the church was built," Anantha Chari, investigating police officer of the case, told ucanews.com.
George Reddy, a layman, donated land for the church. He applied for permission to construct a church but was never given the go ahead, Chari said.
"The villagers had objected two or three times to the construction," he said.
Lady of the Fatima Church in Kundapalli village, Telangan State was vandalized by locals angry about land permission and conversion of Hindus in the state on May 21. (ucanews.com photo)
The new church was blessed by Archbishop Thumma Bala of Hyderabad on May 13 but the church had not yet been used for service. Finishing touches to the building were ongoing.
Archbishop Bala told ucanews.com that the church was blessed to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima "otherwise we would have waited a few more months."
The prelate said that the attack could have happened because the Catholic Church is getting a bad name due to "aggressive preaching" by leaders of the Pentecostal churches in the area.
Pentecostal preachers are going around villages condemning other faiths, telling people they are not saved except in Christ and converting them. It is creating trouble for the Catholic Church, he said.
"Local anger is shown [by attacking churches] as the general public cannot differentiate between a Catholic or other denominations. They see the cross and consider the person a Christian," Archbishop Bala said.
This is not the first time Christian places of worship have come under attack in the country.
In August 2016, Hindu extremists stopped the construction of a church building in Chhattisgarh state accusing Christians of illegal conversion activities.
In March 2015, the Believers Church in Haryana state was vandalized and its cross broken.
In April 2015, a Catholic church in Agra in Uttar Pradesh was vandalized and a dog leash tied around the neck of a Marian statue.