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Church campaigns against 'land grab'

Nationwide movement called in wake of demolition of chapel and former convent

The ruined property The ruined property
  • Shahid Ghouri, Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • January 13, 2012
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The Church has called on people nationwide to join a protest campaign against the government’s “seizure” and demolition of a chapel and sewing center in Lahore earlier this week, calling the move an act of tyranny.

“Wear black armbands where ever you are. The government itself has become a land grabber,” said Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the Catholic Bishops National Commission for Justice and Peace.

I believe Muslims will join us against this tyranny,” he told Church-run Catholic TV yesterday.

He was among 20 priests who had earlier met Bishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore for an urgent meeting to map out a protest strategy at the Bishop’s House on January 11.

They were responding to the Lahore Development Authority’s seizure of a 19th century chapel and several adjoining buildings.

Caritas Pakistan had been managing a sewing center in the chapel’s compound for 15 years.

The property was formerly used as a home for the elderly, a girl’s school and a convent.

“All 21 female and nine male congregations in the archdiocese have been directed to hold consecutive protests in front of the Press Club. An ecumenical prayer and protest is also planned for next week [January 16],” said Fr Ashraf Gill, who also attended the meeting with Bishop Shah.

The director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Ministry also said there are plans to launch an SMS protest campaign on mobile phones and that statement urging support has been circulated to human rights organizations worldwide as well as the UN.

Bishop Shah also appealed for support from Protestants at a meeting with Church of Pakistan Bishop Alexander John Malik yesterday.

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