Chile, Santiago: A statue of a saint burns after protesters set fire to the church of San Francisco de Borja. © Esteban Felix/AP
The international Catholic relief organization "Aid to the Church in Need" has condemned the violent attacks on churches in Santiago de Chile. Two houses of worship there were attacked, vandalized and set on fire by protesters on Sunday.
The church in question was "San Francisco de Borja" and the Church of the Amption, one of the oldest sacred buildings in the Chilean capital, dating from 1876. The local priest Pedro Narbona is also the spiritual assistant of the Chilean national office of "Aid to the Church in Need".
Consternation and condemnation
The executive president of the relief organization, Thomas Heine Geldern, expressed his dismay about the incidents.
The events showed how far the violence and hatred promoted by some groups could reach. Nothing justifies attacks on churches or against the faith and beliefs of others to defend social, ethical or economic justice, he said.
Justice and social change
It is legitimate to demand social change and to take to the streets for it, the president said.
But unbridled hatred of religious groups breeds violence and destruction, he said, and should therefore be condemned worldwide. He also called on the Chilean government to ensure the protection of religious buildings from such crimes.
One year of unrest against the government
According to Aid to the Church in Need, more than 57 church facilities have been attacked and burned down in Chile since October 2019.
The occasion for the recent violence was the first anniversary of the outbreak of anti-government mass protests, he said. These had originally been sparked by a fare increase for the Metro.
Protests for a new catch
The demonstrators are demanding a different social policy as well as a revision of the constitution, which dates back to the time of the military dictatorship.
The protests were largely peaceful, but as in the previous year, there was looting and destruction of businesses, public institutions and churches.