NEW DELHI (AP) — Hundreds of Christians protested outside police headquarters in India's capital on Tuesday, suspecting foul play after a fire destroyed a church.
While the cause of Monday's blaze at the St. Sebastian's Church in a northeast suburb of New Delhi was not known, the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said that "mischief" was suspected.
"The entire interior, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross were reduced to ashes," a statement from the archdiocese said, adding that forensic samples retrieved from the church, which was built in 2001, smelled of fuel.
There was no immediate comment from police, and several phone calls to officials went unanswered.
Delhi's Archbishop Anil Couto asked India's government to order an investigation into the cause of the fire.
Hundreds of Christians gathered in front of police headquarters, demanding a swift investigation. Some carried placards that read "Church burning=nation burning."
While India is overwhelmingly Hindu, officially it is a secular nation. Christians account for about 2.5 percent of the country's 1.2 billion people and largely coexist peacefully with Hindus.
However, the issue of conversions by Christian missionaries has sporadically provoked violence by Hindus.
In 1999, an Australian missionary and his two sons, aged 8 and 10, were burned to death in their car in the eastern state of Orissa following a Bible study class. In 2007, violence against Christians flared again in Orissa, with at least 3 people killed.