Dilshad garden church attack: Archbishop seeks judicial inquiry

‘This is an attempt to polarise people in Delhi, which goes to the polls soon’

Updated - April 07, 2016 02:25 am IST

Published - December 02, 2014 08:30 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The charred interiors of St. Sebastian’s Church at Dilshad Garden on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium

The charred interiors of St. Sebastian’s Church at Dilshad Garden on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium

Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto has called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to urgently order a judicial inquiry into the burning of St. Sebastian’s Church at Dilshad Garden here on Monday morning.

“The entire interior, including the altar, the Holy Bible and Cross were reduced to ashes,’’ said the Archbishop.

On the complaint of the church’s parish priest Father Anthony Francis, the police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for causing the fire with malicious intent. Senior officers of the Delhi Police, the Special Branch and the Forensic Crime unit came to the spot to investigate the matter.

“Samples were retrieved from the inside of the church, which still smelt of fuel oil. Till late Monday evening, the police could not say they had made any progress in their investigations,’’ noted a release issue by the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.

Archbishop Couto added that besides initiating a judicial enquiry, the government must repair the building before Christmas.

“The Christian community cutting across denominations and civil society have decided to protest at the offices of the Police Commissioner of Delhi on Tuesday morning to focus attention on the attempts to polarise the people in Delhi State, which goes to the polls soon, and the continued persecution of Christians in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other tribal and rural areas,’’ added the release issued by the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.

Archbishop Couto said the arson in St. Sebastian’s Church was condemnable not just because it was an act of sacrilege and hate against the community and its faith but that it could happen in the Capital that is just recovering from a series of communal incidents.

“Also distressing is the sense of police impunity. Long hours were lost and possible evidence destroyed before the police finally came,’’ he added.

St. Sebastian’s Church was constructed in 2001 and is among the biggest churches in East Delhi. The church was active till Sunday night because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion.

“The night watchman had handed over charge to the day watchman at 5 a.m. The parish priest Father Francis was informed by the day watchman of the fire. The fire was still raging when Father Francis informed the fire brigade and the police,’’ noted the release.

The Christian community members gathered at the police station to impress on the officers to call in forensic experts. When the police failed to come, roads were blocked for sometime.

Those who visited the church included Archbishop Anil Couto, Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas, several Members of Parliament, Arvind Kejriwal and former MLAs of the area.

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