Lutheran Bishop Jimmy Mathew of Mardan (center) addresses a press conference at the National Press Club Islamabad on July 6. (Photo supplied)
A Lutheran bishop in Pakistan has opposed an act that mandates a federal ministry to sell the properties of religious minorities.
Under the Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities Act, 2020, a “ministry concerned” is mandated to issue a no-objection certificate for the sale/purchase /transfer/gifts of minority properties on the recommendation of the National Commission for Minorities.
The National Assembly’s standing committee on religious affairs and interfaith harmony has approved the bill.
“We reject this ordinance. It only paves the way for selling these properties. It is a conspiracy against Christians. We shall challenge it in court,” said Bishop Jimmy Mathew of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The bishop, who also spearheads the Save the Church Property Movement, was addressing a July 6 press conference at the National Press Club Islamabad.
The act has sent shivers of unease through the Church of Pakistan, which has been engaged in court cases to reclaim land from rival factions. The disputed Protestant properties include schools, shops, church compounds and missionary and educational organizations.
They were using fake documents allegedly with the connivance of government officials and the land mafia, the bishop’s letter stated
Earlier this month, Bishop Arshad Kaleem John, the moderator’s commissary bishop of Karachi and Balochistan, notified Balochistan authorities to protect church properties in Quetta.
He said imposters were trying to sell Church of Pakistan properties including Christian Hospital, St. Teresa School, St. Mary's Church priest’s residence, St. Mary's School-Cantonment, Bethel Memorial Church and the Hospital Compound.
They were using fake documents allegedly with the connivance of government officials and the land mafia, the bishop’s letter stated.
“The Lahore Diocesan Trust Association and Methodist Board for Properties are the real owners of the stated church properties, whereas the Diocese of Karachi/Balochistan is the legal attorney and custodian of those properties,” Bishop John said.
In June, the enforcement department of the Municipal Corporation sealed 22 shops built on the property of St. Mary’s Church in Muzaffargarh, Punjab province, following a complaint by Church of Pakistan Bishop Leo Roderick Paul of Multan.
In May, Karachi Diocese officials demanded the removal of the advocate general of Sindh province, Salman Talibuddin, to save church properties.
In January 2016, Lahore High Court ordered police to register a case against a Christian senator for allegedly embezzling money on the pretext of selling Holy Trinity Church in Murree, a mountain resort town.