Christian leaders in Lahore have rejected claims by local authorities that the recent seizure and demolition of a Catholic Church property was in fact a move to kick out a land grabber.
Provincial Minister for Minorities Kamran Michael announced on January 15 that the action taken at the Gosha e Aman missionary institute was a land retrieval operation ordered by the chief minister against criminal elements.
“He has also directed me to give the Church 1,264 square meters of adjacent land for welfare services and to reconstruct a school and a home for the elderly,” Michael told a press conference, adding that some people were deliberately trying to mislead the Christian community.
The sanctity and protection of religious things will be ensured in future, he promised.
However, Bishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore and Church of Pakistan Bishop Alexander John Malik dismissed the government’s version of events and its offer of land.
“They said nobody owned the land and mysterious activities were happening here; it’s a pack of lies. We were kept in dark”, said Bishop Malik during a protest yesterday in front of the demolished building.
More than 2,000 people including bishops, priests and pastors shouted anti-government slogans and blocked traffic close to the demolition site for two hours.
Several Catholic priests demanded a judicial inquiry.
“We shall continue protesting until the government returns all the land it took and pays for the losses. We do not fear anyone and will fight for our rights”, said Father Morris Jalal.
Former Church of Pakistan Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Peshawar also demanded that those who desecrated the chapel, crosses, copies of the Bible and other religious items be punished.
“A single torn [Qu’ran] page would create havoc and cause the burning of villages and towns. We demand an apology for the hurt caused to us.”
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