Monday, 7 July 2003

Faisalabad (Fides Service) – “We Christians are persons of peace. People know us and respect us. We call on the civil authorities to prevent fundamentalism which threatens us and to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Father George Ibrahim. We will continue our mission: to do the will of God and bear witness to the Gospel”. Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan said this in a homily during the funeral Mass on Sunday 6 July of Father George Ibrahim shot dead by armed men who broke into his parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Renala Khurd, Okara district, diocese of Faisalabad.
Due to the absence of Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, who is out of the country, it was the Bishop of Multan who presided the funeral in the presence of about 1,500 people many from neighbouring dioceses of Lahore and Islamabad. On July 18, when Bishop Coutts returns, there will be a Requiem Mass at the Father Ibrahim’s Our Lady of Fatima parish.
Father Ibrahim’s assistant, Father Peter Semson, who has taken over the care of the parish, told Fides Service that everyone is “deeply shocked. Father George was a gentle person. He told me he had received threats in the past from fundamentalists, particularly since the school attached to the parish and run by the Sisters Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, nationalised in 1973, was returned to the Church in July 2002.”
The parish looks after about 500 Catholic families. The priests administer the sacraments and follow the community of sisters who run the school. They also visit families in surrounding villages assisting the poor. Father Peter continues: “Today a long line of people came to express their sympathy, including many Muslims. Of course Christians are afraid. But it is our duty to encourage the faithful to see others as brothers and sisters. I will carry on the mission assigned to us, to which Father George devotedly himself wholeheartedly.”
Father George Ibrahim was 38. He was shot dead at 1.30 am during the night of 5 July with three gun shots by a group of six men who broke into the parish complex. One of the eyewitnesses was the young cook of the parish, who was not attacked and who said that father George was targeted on purpose. Father Ibrahim, born to staunch Catholic parents, his father was a catechist, was ordained on 3 September 1993. He has a sister who is a Dominican and she is head mistress of Sacred Heart School for girls in Faisalabad.
Our Lady of Fatima parish at Renela Khurd was opened in 1947 and the Sisters Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have been present from the beginning. The parish has a home for girls, a dispensary and a girls high school for Catholics and Muslims. PA (Fides Service 7/7/2003 EM lines 37 Words: 488)