Christians protest against government land mafia
Thousands of Christians demonstrated in Lahore yesterday against the demolition of a chapel and a sewing center, claiming the government had seized the property and land illegally.
Shouting: “Save church property” and “we reject land mafia,” the protesters blocked a road in front of the rubble of what was the Goshae e Aman (Peace corner) for three hours.
“Many copies of the Bible and other religious items were also destroyed during the demolition,” said Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the Catholic Bishops National Commission for Justice and Peace, as he and three other priests struggled to keep the protest peaceful.
The Lahore Development Authority seized possession of the 8,093 sq m property on January 10.
The Catholic Church had been running the center for 50 years and had previously used the building as a home for the elderly, a girl’s school and a convent.
The property, built in 1887, was registered in the name of the Lahore Charitable Association.
During the protest Fr Mani presented legal documents to media.
“We had a court stay for three years”, he said, adding that three Catholic families had been living in the building.
“I called the priest [Fr Mani] when they came. The authorities pushed us out and cut off the water, gas and electricity; we were helpless,” said Augustine George, a teacher trainer who had been living at the center.
“I could only salvage some furniture and a few clothes. Even a laptop, belonging to the Catholic Board of Education, was taken by police.”
The Catholic Church condemned what it called the unlawful demolition of its property in a press statement.
“It is a criminal example of land grabbing by government servants,” it said.
“The District Coordinating Officer, the highest civil servant in the district, demolished the center without showing any legal documentation supporting the government’s claim to it. The government should stop trampling on the rights of religious minorities inPakistan,” it stated.
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