Gunmen Storm Church in Pakistan to Settle Property Dispute
Christian Leaders Fear Church Attacks Becoming Common Trend
07/18/2018 Washington D.C. – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a group of armed Muslims attacked a Catholic church on July 13 in Chak 165-GB at Harssa Kot, in Samundari in the district of Faisalabad, approximately 75 miles from Lahore. While local police have arrested the assailants, local Christians fear that widespread discrimination against their community will prevent justice from being done in this case.
A local Christian resident, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told ICC that five people belonging to a single Muslim family, including Muhammad Jawad, Muhammad Changaiz, Nasreen Bibi, and others, attacked the Christians of Chak 165-GB when they were gathered for worship in the small church. The attackers stormed the church, carrying guns and kerosene oil, and attempted to set the church on fire.
“A group of armed Muslims abused Christianity and desecrated the church stuff,” the local Christian said. “Around 50 men and women were praying in the church when the group of Muslims did aerial shots, attacked the church, beat men and women, damaged windows, altar, pulpit, chairs, and desecrated Christian literature.”
“However, timely intervention of the local police controlled the situation and saved the Christians,” the local Christian reported.
According to the local source, “The [attackers] had a property dispute with Abid Masih and wanted to [take] the church property as well. In order to pressurize the Christian community, a young Christian was kidnapped a week ago, however later recovered.”
Local police have logged a first information report (FIR) against the culprits for five different offenses including 295–A of the Pakistan Penal Code. Three of the assailants have been arrested and an investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
Shamaun Qaiser, a Christian political activist, said, “It is sad to note this new violent trend in which Muslims have started attacking places of Christian worship to settle personal disputes.”
“Such acts against the weaker sections of society often go unpunished,” Qaiser continued. “I have no hope that justice will be done for these Christians as the administration and legislatures have often turned a blind eye to the issue of violence against Christians.”
During the first six months of 2018, ICC reported numerous religious freedom violations against Pakistan’s Christian community. These religious freedom violations included seven Christians being arrested under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, as well as multiple kidnappings, rapes, forced conversions to Islam, and religiously motivated murders. Churches and other places of worship were also targeted by both government authorities and non-state actors. In January, local authorities shut down six house churches, claiming that they could not provide security for the worshipers. In April, unknown assailants set a church on fire in Lahore. In June, local Muslims forcefully closed a church in Toba Tek Singh after deciding that a church was inappropriate in a primarily Muslim village.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Christian places of worship continue to be targeted in Pakistan. As one of the most public and enduring symbols of Christianity in Pakistan, churches often attract the attention of Pakistan’s religious fanatics and terrorists. In recent years, the Pakistani Taliban and ISIS-affiliated groups have targeted churches during Christian holidays to spread terror among Christian communities. It is truly sad to see that this tactic has been adopted to settle a personal dispute over property. Pakistan must take steps to secure its Christian community and their places of worship. In this instance, authorities have the ability to do just that by providing justice to the Christian community of Chak-165-GB.”
For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org