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Muslims Set Church on Fire During Christmas Preparations

12/19/08 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Unknown Muslims entered a church, poured kerosene on the pulpit and set it on fire in the small village of ‘Chak 77-RB’ near the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan. In addition, the attackers left a letter behind threatening the Christians with eternal damnation if they refused to become Muslims.

According to Pastor Asif Mukhtar (photo, holding the threatening letter), Christians in the village were cleaning the church in preparation for Christmas on December 17. There are 80-100 Christian families in the village, and they are split between Catholics and Presbyterians. However, they both share the St. Paul Church building and have never had religious disputes. At noon the church work-team took a break for lunch and left the church open.

While the work-team was away, some young boys started shouting that someone had set fire to the church. Javed Masih immediately ran to the building.

“I was the first who reached into the church,” Masih said. “I saw the Bible and other holy books burning there and a bottle of kerosene oil and a few papers nearby.”

“In the meantime, other people also reached there and we took out the burned books. Fortunately, we reached in time. If not the fire may be spread in the small church,” he added.

According to Father Yaqoob Yousaf, the Catholic Priest who shares responsibility for St. Paul Church, the full text of the letter left behind was: “All you Christians! Embrace Islam, the true and everlasting religion, and quit Christianity since it is a false religion. You will enjoy the life here and after death also, if you believe in Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the last Prophet, otherwise you would be put into hell.” The writer reportedly neither mentioned his name nor the organization he belonged to, but simply signed the letter, “Servant of Islam.”

In addition, Father Yousaf commented, “The writing style and the language used shows that [the author] could be a student of a lower grade in the school or a seminary, however provoked by someone for this act.”

Rapid Response

Christians informed the local police who responded quickly by sending someone to inspect the scene of the crime. The same evening, church members registered a first information report (FIR) against unknown persons, under section 295-A (blasphemy laws) of Pakistan Penal Code in Khurrarianwala police station.

The work-team also told the whole village about the incident. In response, the Christian villagers gathered in the church to express their solidarity, and even some of their Muslim neighbors came to express their support for the church.

Father Yousaf advised the Christians to have patience, but urged the authorities to “provide practical protection to the Christians, arrest and punish the culprit and take firm action against the religious fanatics.” He said the incident has caused fear among the local Christian community. Christians are especially afraid that this person will disrupt Christmas Day services. Father Yousaf added, “We would stage a country-wide protest on the roads, if the administration does not arrest the culprit and fulfill our demands.”

Father Yousaf said that when the Bishop of the Diocese, Joseph Coutts, was made aware of the incident, he responded by condemning the attack and asking the faithful to remain united and pray for peace and religious tolerance in the society.

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]