Pakistani Christians protest against churches being demolished to make way for new train line

Pakistani Christians protested in front of the Lahore High Court on May 3, against the Punjab government’s plans to takeover the land of four churches in order to build the Orange Line Metro Train project.

The demonstrators demanded that the government review its plans, saying they would not give up their holy places.

They waved placards, and were holding crucifixes, while chanting slogans like “we won’t give an inch of our holy places”, and “we want our rights”.

The Punjab government intends to acquire large portions of Cathedral Church, Naulakha Church, St Andrew’s Church and Bohar Wala Church.

The Christian community is determined not to let their churches be destroyed, as they are not only holy, but are a part of Lahore’s history and have been in place since before the partition.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK expressed his grave concerns over the ongoing situation of Christians in Pakistan.

He said: “There is no respite for them and one problem after the other seems to follow Pakistani Christians.

“The Christians who are still in mourning after the Easter Sunday attack and are still trying to deal with that trauma, are now faced with the issue of the demolition of their four historic churches in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the province where Christians suffer most.

“These churches were built pre-Pakistan and these all churches are located at very expensive and prime locations which politicians and Islamists are jealous of. They cannot stand that Christians have such prime property and they do not, so try to use any excuse to grab the land and belittle Christians.

Mr Saeed said although on several occasions present and former presidents, prime ministers and some other politicians have praised the Christians’ role in creation and development of Pakistan, nobody seems sincere towards them.

Z A Bhutto’s government nationalised Christian schools and colleges and despite an order from the supreme courts, the government still failed to hand back the churches.

“A few years ago the present government tried to grab the Gosha E Aman church property in Lahore – again at a prime location – near the governor house but failed, and now it wants four churches. This will never be acceptable by the Christians,” said Mr Saeed.

He added that it is very unfortunate that instead of protecting the properties, honour and lives of the minorities, the government and in particular the Punjab government, is working to annihilate them.

Mr Saeed said: “We are aware that just to save some government buildings the Government has changed its original plans. This is a controversial project and it faces a lot of opposition.

“But Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab, seems adamant to execute this project despite of the all the opposition. He can continue this project but he must change his plan to save our churches. The Government shouldn’t play with Christians’ religious feelings and should avoid further aggrieving pressurizing the Christian minority of Pakistan. ”