Muslim mob attack Christians on construction of Church
Lahore: September 3, 2018. (PCP) A mob in excess of 50 people, including men, women and children assaulted Christians of Waran Chak Balyana village and seized 16 of the 35 Marla of land in ownership of the church Unarmed Christians were beaten severely by the angry mob and the existing Roman Catholic church building was battered with bricks, sticks and stones. Five people were injured in the attack which occured at 9am on the 2nd of August 2018.
A 10-year-old boy named Sagar Masih suffered a broken arm (left humerus fracture), while 18-year-old Anand Masih sustained a deep laceration on the left side of his lips and was treated with 8 stitches at General Hospital, Kausar. Nasreen Masih received a severe blow to the left side of her head resulting in concussion and huge swelling around the wounded area. During the assault in an act designed to create humiliation the attackers also tore off the clothes of some of the women, and verbally abused and threatened them.
Local Muslims have carried a dispute with the local Christians over a piece of land for years and on the 1st of January 2018 a group of them even tried to bulldoze the existing partial church construction with a tractor. However, Church leaders followed up with legal action through Kasur Session Court and successfully gained a stay-order in January for the piece of disputed land which expires on 17th September 2018.
Reverend Father Nadeem Rafique Joseph (40 yrs) told BPCA officer Zeeshan Masih, that the property of the Church was initially registered in the name of Mr. Bashir Masih and later transferred into the ownership of St. Mathewâ€™s Catholic Church on 18th May 2010. St. Matthewâ€™s Catholic Church is under construction and around 150 members attend a prayer meeting at the partially developed building every Sunday at 6am, under the supervision of Father Nadeem and Catechist Sosheel. The village itself has a small Christian contingent of around 40 Christian families.
Father Nadeem Rafique Joseph, said:: "The Catholic Diocese Land dispute department is looking into this issue and they will resolve it. As far as we are concerned this is just a land dispute between two parties and not a religious issue which needs to raised at international level."
Local police however have initiated an investigation and have registered a First Incident Report (FIR). The primary culprits named are Mushtaq Ahmed, Razaq Ahmed, Shahzad, Mukhtar Hussain and Bhatta, along with unidentified women and children. They have however stated that the crime is one of land dispute and not persecution of Christians and have asked the Catholic Diocese to treat it as such.
Mr Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "Despite what the Catholic Diocese and local Police are saying local Christians believe they are being targeted because of their faith. The angst in the local community only began when Christians began to build the church building and violence soon began against them.
"Local Parishioners have expressed their disappointment that the Catholic Diocese is trying to appease Muslim attackers despite the striping of their women and the significant injuries to several people including a broken arm for 11-year-old Sagish. They want some justice and desire prosecutions for those involved in the violence so that no further attacks occur.
"Moreover, some of the parishioners now believe the Catholic diocese is engineering a compromise deal that will restrict times of services and remove any PA from the church to cause less offence to Muslims. This may even result in loss of some of the land to the Muslim aggressors in order to retain what will no doubt be a short-lived peace with a highly intolerant Muslim community.
"The supine nature of the Christian leaders representing the church has demoralised parishioners who are all calling for a stiffer stance. I hope the Catholic Church will fulfil it's duty to protect these suffering Christians."