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Church goes without loudspeakers for five days

By Sheraz Khurram Khan

7/13/07 Pakistan (ANS) — “End Times Message Believers Assembly” Church at Gunianwala (Chak 43 NB Sargodha) went without loudspeakers for five days after three Muslim men recently filed a report in the Police Station Satellite Town Sargodha alleging that the use of loudspeakers by the pastor “irked” them.

Pastor Irshad Masih told ANS he had obtained the land for construction of the church in 1986 through the help of then Assistant Commissioner Sargodha, Chaudhary Ghazanfar Zia.

The pastor said Fiaz, who happens to be among three neighbouring Muslim men including Ghulam Abbas, Mubarak Ali and Pervaiz Cheema, who filed the report against usage of the church loudspeakers.

Faiz used to keep his animals at the place where the Church stands now, said the pastor pointing to the genesis of the face-off between him and the Muslim neighbours.

The tension has been simmering since then, he said. When asked if he ever brought the alleged intransigent posture of the Muslim neighbours to the Police the pastor said he did not.

“I thought if I took up the matter with the police it would only compound further. So, I prayed that things settle down. I have been facing problems ever since construction of the church”, said the pastor.

Elaborating on the problems he said that during the last four years the Church loudspeaker was dislodged twice by a Muslim man.

“A charged Muslim youth, Muhammad Adil mounted on the roof of the church. He dislodged the loudspeaker and hurled it down. This left it damaged. We got it repaired but the neighbouring Muslims dislodged the loudspeaker yet again,” he regretted.

Describing other problems he has been facing since the inception of Church, he said that some time back the neighbouring Muslims uprooted the filter of the Church’s hand pump. The hand pump he said was erected in the church compound whereas the drilling for the hand pump had been made near Fiaz’s house.

Fiaz, he alleged, uprooted the filter and hid it inside his house. The Pastor said he approached one of Fiaz’s friend Ghulam Abbas and took up the matter with him.

He said Fiaz took an oath on Quran, Muslim holy book that he had not uprooted the filter of Church’s hand pump.

The Pastor claimed his sister went to Fiaz’s house and found the filter there. “By taking a ‘false’ oath on Quran you have made both of us guilty”, Pastor quoted Ghulam Abbas as telling Fiaz.

Some time back Fiaz stuffed straws in the loudspeaker which he said rendered the speaker inaudible, he alleged.

A visit of a guest evangelist, John Masih prompted Muslim neighbours in question to file a police report against usage of the Church loudspeaker, the pastor said, adding that the complainants mentioned in the police report that the day-long use of the speakers disturbed them.

“The loudspeaker was only used during the sermon and hymns”, said the pastor refuting the charges levelled by the Muslim men against him.

The Pastor told ANS that they had to turn off the loudspeaker after visit of a police official. The Church, he said, went without loudspeaker for five days.

Last night, he said, a compromise was reached between him and the Muslim men.

“The Christians make an announcement for summoning people for prayers whereas Muslim clerics give prayer call by using speakers so it is one and the same thing. Pakistani Christians are also equal citizens”, the pastor quoted investigation officer, Mehr Bashir Ahmad as telling the Muslim complainants.

The Muslim men confessed to their mistake and the compromise was almost arrived last night, the pastor said. He said the police had summoned both the parties again today (Friday).

Rays of Development (ROD) team comprising Zimran Elias, Jawad Mazhar, Nadeem Samuel and Chairman of Rays of Development Ferhan Mazher also accompanied ANS.

Condemning the incident, Ferhan said that it was regrettable that the Church had to go without loudspeakers for five days.

“Irrespective of complaint, the turning off the loudspeakers of a mosque is unimaginable in Pakistan . Instead of bickering over minor issues the people of all religions should live in peace and harmony”, he said.