ASIA/PAKISTAN - Property issues, devastated a Catholic church in Punjab

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 religious minorities   local churches   violence   politics  


Sialkot (Agenzia Fides) - More than 50 men have raided and devastated the Catholic church of St. Paul in Sialkot, a city of Pakistani Punjab, claiming ownership of the land where it stands. The parish priest, Fr. Victor Sawera OFM, revealed this to Agenzia Fides, informing that the incident occurred unexpectedly in the evening (at 8 pm local time) on December 19th. All the men who carried out the attack are militants of the "Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf" (PTI) political party, led by former cricket player Imran Khan. The president of the local section of the PTI, Asadullah Randhawa, led the crowd that was unleashed in vandalism.
The militants broke the lock of the church door, located just outside the town of Sialkot, and broke the plaque bearing the name of the church. Entering the building, some fired into the air in order to frighten the faithful, then broke windows, damaged musical instruments, liturgical furnishings, Christmas decorations. The police, intervened at the end of the attack, first placed seals on the building, and then returned it to the parish priest, who filed a complaint to the police.
The reasons for the attack are related to property issues. As learned by Fides, a couple of weeks ago some men had claimed ownership of the land on which the church stands and had also sold it to buyers, presenting documentation that Catholics declare completely false. The tension has risen and yesterday there was an unexpected retaliation and intimidation towards a community that does not want to leave or give up the church building and that intends to clarify the controversy at legal and juridical level. (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/12/2017)