Principal issues plea after armed men storm Global Passion School, demand extortion money and torture staff
School principal Simon Peter Kaleem (center) with police officers at Global Passion School in Sheikhupura on April 29. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry/UCA News)
A Christian principal is asking for help after his school was attacked by armed men demanding extortion money in Sheikhupura city in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Fourteen armed men raided Global Passion School on April 29, tortured staff and damaged their vehicles. The school, managed by Presbyterians, has provided free education and food to Christian students from brick kiln families since 2018.
The attackers hurled chairs at the children while they were praying in the hall at 11.30am, according to school principal Simon Peter Kaleem.
“They attacked the security guard and demanded 100,000 rupees [US$536] in extortion money every month, threatening that if their demand was not met they would forcibly stop Christian worship and the school’s operations,” Kaleem said in a first information report to local police.
“They misbehaved with the female staff and issued death threats if we failed to make payment in two days. They also damaged staff cars and motorcycles parked in the building, causing an estimated total loss of 350,000 rupees.”
Police have so far arrested three men. Kaleem, who was also tortured, was due to hold a press conference with Sheikhupura district police and political leaders at the school on May 2.
“We heard the conflict is based on personal issues. We hope to involve local clerics in finding a peaceful solution. We condemn the resurgence of attacks on the Christian community"
“Many of our religious and political leaders, while visiting other countries, say that minorities and Christians are safe in Pakistan. After what happened to us today, I will never say that. Our security guard can’t even walk now. Our community is threatened to keep silent,” Kaleem said in a video posted on social media.
“A few among the neighboring Muslim community have always tried to stop us from praying. They literally demanded stopping the noise and ‘kanjar khana’ [brothel]. We want to be treated equally. Please pray for us.”
Father Touseef Yousaf, parish priest of St. Teresa Church in Sheikhupura, plans to visit the school this week.
“We heard the conflict is based on personal issues. We hope to involve local clerics in finding a peaceful solution. We condemn the resurgence of attacks on the Christian community,” he told UCA News.
Last week’s assault is the third of attack on a church institution in Punjab province this year.
In March, police in Lahore arrested a Muslim youth who climbed onto the rooftop of One in Christ Church and sat on the cement cross chanting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great) while trying to pull it down.
In January, police charged four people with blasphemy for ransacking St. Camillus Church in a village in Okara district in Punjab province.
According to parishioners, the raiders tied up the Christian watchman and threw pictures of the Holy Family, Eucharist, Bibles and the Ark of the Covenant on the floor.
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