Catholic bishops in Chile have denounced the violent attack on a church in the nation’s capital and the targeting of churches throughout the country amid ongoing protests in which 20 people have been killed.
During a large protest in Santiago against the Chilean government, a crowd of people attacked La Asuncion Church, taking and then destroying pews, statues, and other sacred items.
Catholic Bishops Conference of Chile released a statement expressing solidarity with La Asuncion and any other houses of worship attacked amid the national protests.
“[The] attack on temples and places of prayer, without any respect for God or for those who believe in Him, causes us pain,” said the bishops, as reported by Vatican News on Monday.
For nearly a month, large scale protests and strikes have been occurring in Chile, sparked by students protesting a now-suspended metro fare increase in Santiago in October.
Other issues regarding income inequality and economic woes have led to demonstrations throughout the nation against the administration of President Sebastián Piñera.
The Chilean bishops said the violent incidents are hindering people “from giving the right amount of attention to the claims of the majority of the Chilean people, who yearn for real and peaceful solutions.”
“… along with so many Chileans, we radically oppose injustice and violence, condemning it in all its forms,” they added, calling on the government to “apply the law” and “re-establish civic coexistence.”
According to the National Institute of Human Rights in Chile, 20 people have been killed and an estimated 2,000 injuries have occurred during the protests.
While many of the protests have been peaceful, others have included looting, arson, and violent clashes between hooded individuals and the police.
“No more abuse,” declared one protester, as reported by The Associated Press. “Today we are saying enough, in the most peaceful way possible, to politicians and to those who are in charge of drafting laws in our country.”
Amnesty International released a statement Monday denouncing the response of the government to the national protests. “In three weeks, the government has made excessive use of force, often unnecessarily, against mainly peaceful protesters and passers-by,” said Ana Piquer, executive director of Amnesty International Chile.
“We want to make it very clear: we are not talking about isolated events, the number of cases is running into thousands and they are occurring throughout practically the entire country.”