Updated: May 21, 2019 10:21 AM GMT
Two of the desecrated crosses that were among nearly 40 that were vandalized in a Christian cemetery in Pakistan's Punjab province. (Photos from St. Anthony’s Church Okara Facebook page)
The crosses on as many as 38 graves have been desecrated at a century-old Christian cemetery in Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab.
The six-acre cemetery is located in Okara town some 70 miles southeast of Lahore, the provincial capital.
Samson Masih, a Catechist serving St. Anthony’s Parish in Okara, said that the damage was discovered on May 12.
"When we went to the graveyard following our Sunday Mass, crosses on the graves were found broken and thrown on the ground," Masih told ucanews.com.
The headstones and crosses were variously made of stone, wood and bricks.
"We have reason to believe that this was driven by hatred for minorities living in the area," Masih said.
"This is shocking for all of us as this is the first time that such an incident of religious intolerance has happened in our village."
Father Saleh Diego, the vicar general and director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace in the Karachi Archdiocese, condemned the desecration.
"It is very sad news for us all that some sick minded people have resorted to attacks on our graves and dishonored and damaged crosses," he said.
Father James Bahadur, St. Anthony's Parish priest, said people's "religious feelings" had been hurt.
"We demand the government arrest the culprits and give them exemplary punishment as per the law," he said, adding that many Christians in the community were frightened.
Meanwhile, police have registered a case against 'unknown persons' under Article 297 of the Criminal Code of Pakistan for 'vandalism in places of burial and vilification of religion.'
An investigation is under way, but no arrests had been made at the time of the filing of this ucanews.com report.
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