Sunday, August 30, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 10

Muslim Extremist Attacks on Christian Villages,
Churches Schools, Hospitals and
Church Personnel (Contd.)

Mob attack on St. Saviour's Church in Sukkur,
Sindh Province (February 19, 2006)

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Wealthy Landowner's Family Attacks Catholic Church
at Kawanlit in Sialkot District

2006 (February 3): Some 20 women and three men, relatives of a wealthy Muslim landowner, attacked the Catholic Church at Kawanlit in Sialkot District at 9:45 a.m. They also assaulted, Veero Mehnga Masih, a 70-year-old woman, fracturing her legs and Saleema Mazir Masih, a 50-year-old woman, hurting her back. They also smashed church furnishings and windows and desecrated the altar and Holy Bible kept there.

On February 6, Mohammad Iqbal, the wealthy landowner, filed a case with the police against eight Christians "for starting a fight that led the ransacking of the church." Father Bernard Bhatti, the parish priest, said that the eight accused "were not even there" at the the time of the church attack.

The cause of the trouble started over some church-owned land which was being forcibly grabbled by Mohammad Iqbal. Father Bhatti mentioned that on November 7, 2005, Iqbal purchased a piece of land adjacent to the 20-year-old church. Then he began a process of encroachment using more and more of the church's property for parking his vehicles and tying up his domestic animals.

After failed attempts at buying out the piece of land from Iqbal, the parishioners opened a court case against the landowner on January 12, 2006. The police then arrested Iqbal. After his release on bail on January 26, he threatened the Christian community with retribution for filing the case against him. Father Bhatti said that the February 3 attack was triggered when Veero Masih and Saleema Masih challenged Iqbal's relatives for tying up livestock on the church property.

The UCANews reports that Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore and Peter Jacob, the chairman and executive secretary respectively of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, in a joint statement, declared: "Violence against weaker communities is resurfacing because the government failed to deal effectively with similar incidents that happened in the past. The most recent example is Sangla Hill, where a due process of law has not taken place even 80 days after the desecration and destruction of three churches and Christian properties."

Muslim Mob Attacks Protestant and Catholic Churches
in Sukkur, Sindh Province

2006 (February 19): A crowd of several hundred enraged Muslims attacked and looted two churches in Sukkur of Sindh Province.

The mob first gathered in front of St. Saviour's Church, belonging to the Church of Pakistan. At the time a prayer meeting was underway in the church. They stoned the building and left it to come back later to set it on fire. In the process, three mopeds and a car were also burnt.

They then moved on to the 120-year-old St. Mary's Catholic Church, where there was only one policeman on guard. He fled away at the advance of the shouting mob, that descended on the church and nearby St. Mary's Girls' High School, ransacking, looting and setting then on fire.

According to Mr. Sebastian (a retired teacher of St. Mary's High School), Irfan Gill -- a former Protestant who converted to Islam two years before this incident -- burnt a copy of the Quran to teach a lesson to his father-in-law Saleem Gill, with whom he was in dispute over the possession of a house. He brought blasphemy charge against Saleem Gill, the retired bank officer. He told police that when Irfan's daughter (and Saleem Gill's grand-daughter) Amna was reciting the Quran, Saleem Gill snatched it and desecrated it.

An imam (prayer leader) of the local mosque complained to police that Irfan Gill himself set the Quran on fire and falsely implicated his father-in-law in it. In spite of Irfan's arrest by the police, a Muslim mob gathered according to pre-plan and attacked the Protestant and Catholic churches.

Mr. Sebastian said: "We called the police several times but the mob did what they wanted to do for about two hours."

Archbishop Evarist Pinto of Karachi lamented: "Things are really tense for the Christian community in Pakistan. We are easily targeted by angry mobs and the authorities do nothing to calm our fears."

The government had promised rapid financial help, but until mid-2009, no help came.

Attack on Presbyterian Church at Basti Noori Gate,
Sargoda, Punjab Province

2006 (February 28): Unknown persons set fire to the 80-year-old Presbyterian church at Basti Noori Gate in Sargoda, north-west of Lahore. The building's main entrance door and six windows were damaged in the petrol fire. This church has about 250 members, most of whom are

Some Christians speculated that this attack had taken place in protest to the publication of Danish cartoons on Prophet Mohammad.

Arson Attack on a Protestant Church
in Mian Channu Village, Khanewal District

2006 (March 30): A group of unidentified people set fire to a Protestant Apostolic church (Apostolic Faith Mission Church) in Mian Channu village in Khanewal District of the Punjab Province. No one was injured. Rev. Nathaniel Barkat, the pastor of the church, said that he did not know the assailants. He said that local Muslim extremists must have been behind it.

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