Christians Protest Illegal Seizure of Church Properties
Christians in Pakistan have recently faced numerous seizures of land properties from the Punjab government, including churches and Christian schools. The latest seizure spurred a protest of thousands of Pakistani Christians, in hopes of seeing the government return the recently taken school. Christian leaders affirm that they are willing to hold a sit-in in front of the governor’s house or even take their protest to a national level until resolution is found.
By Jeremy Reynalds
6/22/2014 Pakistan (ANS) – On June 15, more than 1500 Pakistani Christians held a protest at the urging of the Catholic Church, Diocese of Lahore against the government of Punjab.
A news release from CLAAS-UK said the protest was led by the Bishop of Lahore, Sebastian Francis Shaw, Father Andrew Nisari, Father Joseph Shahzad, Joseph Francis, director of CLAAS-PK, as well as several other priests and community leaders.
The protest started from the Lahore Press Club and went to the Governor’s House. It was a result of the Punjab government seizing the St. Francis High School in Lahore.
According to CLAAS, “It is being said that Punjab government is like a land mafia who got support of the militant groups. This is not the only property, but (they) have grabbed over ten big Christian properties including church, schools, graveyards and hospitals in Punjab.”
A week ago church leaders including Bishop Shaw, Father Nisari, Father Shahzad, Joseph Francis and other community leaders had a meeting with the Lahore Police District Coordination Officer (DCO) about the return of the St. Francis School to the church.
CLAAS said DCO promised to look into the issue, but failed to respond and no one wanted to listen. As a result, the protest ensued.
The marchers tried to give the petition to the Governor, Mohammad Sarwar (who is also a former British MP and an advocate for Christians and the rights of other minorities), but he was not there.
Christian leaders hold the Punjab government responsible for the seized buildings, and say that if the schools and other properties are not returned they will hold a sit in in front of the governor’s house until a resolution is reached. They are also prepared to take their protest nationally.
Christian leaders say Christian missionary schools have paid a vital role in the education of Pakistani youth.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK said in the release it is also very sad that the Christian community which supported Quaid e Azam (Mohammed Ali Jinnah) in his quest for the formation of Pakistan, is now being dispossessed from its houses, churches and institutions-as well as Pakistan in general.