Published: 16:00 GMT Standard Time - Monday 16 January 2012
Authorities demolish Christian welfare centre in Pakistan, forcing families out
Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia
Two families who lived at a Christian welfare centre in Pakistan were forced out as the site was illegally taken over and demolished by the authorities.
The compound was bulldozed
on 10 January
Gosha-e-Aman (The Corner of Peace) in Lahore was bulldozed on 10 January; the compound’s church, houses and other property, including a cross and Bibles, were destroyed.
The families who lived at the site were ordered out as the machinery was moved in by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), flanked by a heavy police presence. Hundreds of local Christians quickly gathered at the site to protest against the demolition.
The two-acre property, worth billions of rupees, was registered as the Lahore Charitable Association and belonged to the local church. It was established in 1887 and had previously been used as a home for the elderly and a girls’ school.
Lahore officials said that the property had been transferred to the Punjab government and notices had been served to vacate it since last year.
The site has been subject to land-grabbing attempts by three different groups, and the matter of its occupation is consequently under court proceedings; a stay order had been issued against its demolition.
Christian leaders said the Punjab government, operating through the LDA, had acted illegally. They said that no notice had been served to residents or the legal property holders, the Lahore Charitable Association.
At a press conference on 10 January, Christian leader Emmanuel Yousuf Mani, director of the National Commission of Justice and Peace, presented legal papers regarding the property and the stay order issued by the Lahore High Court.
Joseph Francis, director of CLAAS, a Christian legal organisation supported by Barnabas Fund, called for the Punjab government to stop backing land-grabbers.
On Monday (16 January), hundreds of Christians staged a demonstration against the demolition of the centre and seizure of the land. They said that the protests would continue and spread to other parts of the country unless the land is returned.
The incident follows the violent Muslim takeover of land allocated to a Christian village in Mian Channu, Punjab. A young Christian man, Saqib Masih (22), was shot dead and 37 people seriously injured as a mob of around 60 Muslims descended on the site in October.