ASIA/PAKISTAN - Robbery and kidnapping in a Catholic church

Monday, 23 February 2015

Kasur (Agenzia Fides) – Three armed men openly entered Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church in Bhai Pheru, Kasur district, in Punjab, taking church personnel including the assistant parish priest Fr. Ijaz Bashir and congregation hostage. This was reported to Fides by local church sources, who added that the episode took place on 19 February at nine in the morning. Before leaving the premises the criminals stole mobile telephones, cameras and a computer.
The Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, human rights defender, informed by the church staff went immediately to the site. The episode was reported to the Bhai Pheru police. Investigations began promptly and, as Fides was told, the police said they were “confident that in a few days those responsible would be arrested”.
Lawyer Gill met other persons present at the time of the crime, including women religious. Sr Mariam Hakam said while her sisters were afraid, “they trusted in God” adding that no special security measures had been put in place in the church. “In the past, the parish priest, Fr. Leopold, was robbed” catechist Shahbaz Anjum recalled. The thieves – he added “pretended to be ordinary members of the faithful wanting to enrol some children at the parish school. Then they suddenly pulled out guns”.
The local church is still shocked by what happened . The parish priest, Fr. Leopold Evans, OFM Cap, a Belgian missionary present in the parish for more than 26 years, is unwell and presently in hospital for treatment. After the Twin Tower terrorist attack in New York in 2001, the Pakistan government ordered all Christian church compounds to build walls of protection and recommended the employment of security guards. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/2/2015)