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05/26/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Earlier this month, a church in Batala Sharn Singh village, located in the Punjab province of Pakistan, had its boundary wall demolished and property illegally occupied. According to local Christians, the Muslim man now occupying the church property is attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to his advantage to steal the land.

In May, Pastor Ashiq Matoo, pastor of the occupied church, uploaded a video on social media claiming that Chaudhry Raisat, a local Muslim, was attempting to steal the land of his church. Pastor Matoo reported that Raisat had demolished the church’s boundary wall and had illegally extended his home into the church yard.

The leadership of the church reported the incident to police. However, the police have not taken action against Raisat or his illegal possession of the church property. Instead, Raisat and other Muslims in the village have threatened the Christians with “dire consequences” if they persist in trying to reclaim the church property.

According to Pastor Matoo, the church was built in 2005 and remains the only worship center for some 50 Christian families in Batala Sharn Singh. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the national lockdown that followed, the church has remained closed since late March. Pastor Matoo suspects Raisat is taking advantage of the pandemic by “grabbing” the property as the church remains empty.

Local Christian women have also reported that Raisat has used abusive language with them. According to these women, Raisat has called them “Choora”, a derogatory word often used to denote Christians as untouchable.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].