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Thousands of Christians Protest Church Attack in Pakistan

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address Contact Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, [email protected].

(March 25, 2008) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that thousands of Christians staged a demonstration on March 19, 2008, that blocked the main highway through populous Gujranwala District, Pakistan, after land grabbers assaulted a church in a Christian neighborhood during Holy Week.

On March 18, a mob of people who wanted to seize a community center that belonged to a church in Garjakh, a largely Christian neighborhood in the city of Gujranwala, reportedly started tearing down the church’s walls.

However, the pastor of the church, Sharif Bhatti, and a group of Christians gathered to defend the church building. When the pastor arrived, the mob physically assaulted the pastor and the people with him, and started throwing stones at the church. When the Christians in the neighborhood heard what was happening, a large group of them gathered and approached the church, causing the mob to flee.

Word of the attack spread quickly, and the next day, thousands of Christians from across the city of Gujranwala staged a protest to demand that those responsible for the attack on the church be arrested immediately and brought to justice. They urged the authorities to provide protection to religious minorities and to their places of worship.

The protestors proceeded to block the Government Transport Road at Gondlanwala Chowk, a major intersection, by parking tractors laden with garbage across the road. The demonstrators blocked traffic while chanting slogans against the land grabbers for more than two hours.

Pastor Sharif Bhatti, Pastor Sabir and other Christians and labor union leaders threatened the local government that they would demonstrate outside the offices of senior officials if the police did not arrest the culprits within the next 24 hours. Finally, police arrived and promised the protestors that they would bring justice to those who attacked the church, and the demonstration dispersed peacefully.

Local Christian leaders then submitted a written complaint to the police station. However, the police had not registered this case nor had they arrested any individual at the time this report was written.

ICC Policy Analyst Jeremy Sewall said, “Unfortunately, the Christians in Gujranwala were given empty promises to make them quiet down. Pakistani officials ought to take note, however, of the scope and speed with which Christians gathered to protest this attack. Thankfully, the demonstration was a peaceful one. But Pakistani officials might have bigger problems on their hands if they continue to give their Christian citizens empty promises.”

Please contact the Pakistani embassy in your country and ask them to protect the rights of Christians and all religious minorities.

Pakistan Embassies:

USA: (202) 243-6500, [email protected]

Canada: (613) 238-7881, [email protected]

UK: 0870-005-6967, [email protected]

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ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.