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Threats, Lack of Funds Hamper Construction of Church

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

ANS (07/21/06) – A Pakistani pastor is faced with the twin problems of security and lack of finances in building a church in the capital of Pakistan , Islamabad .

Brother Nazir Masih, 67, has been striving to construct a Church in sector G-8/2 Service Road North Islamabad for many years. The proposed name of the Church is Emmanuel Church.

In an exclusive interview to ANS Pastor Nazir Masih said that he applied for securing a plot measuring 100’x 200 (20,000 Sq.ft/2222.22 yards) in the said sector in 1972. He said he got the possession letter of the plot from Capital Development Authority (CDA) on October 10, 2002.

Asked why it took that long to get the possession letter of the plot for the construction of the Church, Nazir said that he could not pursue the case since he was serving Ministry of Foreign Affairs then.

Describing the hurdles he has been confronting after he decided to construct the Church in G-8/2 sector Masih said that over 250 people encircled him on March 19, 2003.

“They desecrated the cross erected on the site of the Church. They also kicked the cross and clubbed the truck that contained construction material”, the pastor confided in ANS.

To further thwart him from building Church the pastor said that the fundamentalist elements took away some 4,000 bricks, which had been laid, on the site of the Church. They also removed water supply connection, he added.

The Pastor maintained that the opposition to the building of the Church did not stop here.

The residents of government quarters who are employees of Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) moved petition against allotment of the plot for construction of the church.

The Pastor said that senior civil Judge M. Aslam Gondal gave his verdict on 29-05-2004 in favour of construction of the Church on the plot in question.

The pastor disclosed that one Haji Muhammad Hanif Abbassi filed a petition against allotment of the plot for Church construction in the court of senior civil Judge, Javed Iqbal Bosal.

Nazir Masih said that the Judge (Javed Iqbal Bosal) also gave his verdict in the favour of construction of church on the plot allotted by the CDA on 30-7-2004.

The residents of government quarters then moved petition in the court of district judge, said the pastor.

“He (the judge) transferred the case in a day to Additional District Judge, Muhammad Tariq Abbassi.The Judge again gave his verdict in favour of construction of church on 15-12-2004”, he said.

The Pastor told ANS that Muhammad Hanif Abbassi filed a petition in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court against the allotment of the plot for construction of church on the ground that the plot was located in the vicinity of thickly populated Muslim area.

Syed Shabbar Rizvi, the judge gave his verdict in the favour of construction of the Church on 15-01-2005. The honourable judge, the pastor said, directed Javed Iqbal Bosal to resolve the pending case.

At this point, the pastor told ANS that Muhammad Hanif Abbassi withdrew his petition. One Muhammad Saeed Khan, filed petition against allotment of the plot for construction of Church in the court of Civil Judge, Ist class, Javed Iqbal Bosal.

The Pastor went on to say that the Judge gave a 35-page verdict in favour of construction of the Church on 30-7-2005.

Those opposing the construction of the Church again filed petition in the court of the district judge.

The Judge referred the case again to Additional District Judge, Muhammad Tariq Abbassi who in his verdict on 14-12-2005 again decided the case in the favour of construction of the church.

The pastor told ANS that while he was seeking justice from the courts of law he had been receiving threats from the residents of government quarters, who are employees of PARC.

He said he feared that the elements who have been opposing construction of the Church tooth and nail may go to any extreme in a bid to stop him from building the church for whose construction he has been fighting for so many years.

To help avert any untoward incident he may face from the elements opposing the construction of Church, Nazir wrote a letter to the President of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf urging him to ensure that the construction of the Church takes place smoothly.

“……. We would request your good honour to steer us out of our conglomeration of problems by directing the relevant authorities to restrain the opposing elements from continuing their obnoxious and unholy activities against the construction of the premises of the Emmanuel Church. This would help set the things in a right direction paving the way for starting work on construction of the Church building unhindered and without loss of any further time”, Nazir Masih wrote in a letter to President General Pervez Musharraf.

“ We would also humbly submit to your good honour to order to the concerned authorities to adopt urgent measures for providing full-fledged and fool-proof security to us enabling us to undertake construction work of the Church premises without any further delay because a considerable time had already been wasted for no fault on our part. These elements had been indulging in these practices to prevent us from construction of the Church since March 19, 2003”, Nazir wrote in the letter.

Pastor Nazir Masih, 67 and his wife Mrs Rasool Bibi, 65 preaching the word of God in Islamabad .

The Pastor handed the copy of the letter to ANS during the interview.

Masih has been fighting for his constitutional right of building the church despite odds stacked against him on health front. He has been suffering from Diabetes and cardiac ailments since December 1999.

“ My varicose and blood clotting in the veins of my right leg because of heart ailment has made it difficult for me to walk easily and I can do so with a supporting stick”, the pastor told ANS.

The elements opposed to construction of the Church in sector G-8/2, he said had been insisting him to build the Church at some other site “but each time I was asked to do so I came up with an emphatic No”, said the pastor.

Asked how did he manage to face his opponents the aged pastor responded in a determined tone: “ I have absolute faith in Jesus Christ and my staunch faith in Him has been helping me to continue fighting for my constitutional right of constructing Church on the plot allotted by the CDA”, the pastor said.

Masih told this correspondent that he had also handed the file of the plot in dispute to PML General Secretary, Mushahid Hussain on July 10, 2006 during a seminar entitled “ Violence, Memories and Peace-building: A citizen reports on Minorities in India and Pakistan”

Prayer Request

To realize the construction of the Church in sector G-8/2 the pastor told ANS that he needed some 3 crores (30 million Pakistan rupees approximately US$ 500000) for construction of the Church hall, Pastor House, Servant quarters, lavatories, quarters for security personnel and lawn. The prospective donors could contribute towards construction of the Church by sending their generous contributions in the name of Brother Nazir Masih.