Lahore Church Burnt in Suspicious Circumstances Alleged to be Arson Attack
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS-Jan 12, 2016).The New Apostolic church in Batth village, located 80 km away from Lahore, Pakistan, was burnt after a new year celebration on Jan. 6.
According to information from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), the incident has created great concern among the local Christian community, who believe it was religiously motivated.
Pastor Yaqoob Saraoya said he closed the church down at about midnight, and was notified about an hour later that the building was ablaze.
BPCA said he arrived back at the church within minutes, and with help from area Christians, extinguished the fire in about an hour, with no assistance from the local fire department.
Believing it was arson against Christians, Saraoya called the local Manga Police Station.
The Station Head Officer (SHO) Afzal Sindu arrived with other officers within a few minutes, and did a short investigation.
BPCA said law enforcement suggested the fire was caused by a short circuit as opposed to arson, and refused to file a criminal police report.
However, BPCA said, the nearby town of Kasur was where a couple were lynched, beaten and burned to death for alleged blasphemy.
Another incident also occurred on Jan. 6, when religious materials belonging to the Victory Church of Kasur were torched.
According to BPCA, Dildar Bhatti living next to the church building said, “I showed police officials suspicious marks on the wall of the church that (demonstrated) someone had climbed the church wall to gain entry to our church, but the police officers just ignored my evidence and did not add the detail to their reports. Local police officials do not cooperate with villagers.”
Karamat Masih, another area resident, said “All the local Christians are now in great fear. The fire illustrates that Christians are not wanted in the local area.”
The BPCA’s Shamim Masih said local residents have repainted the outside wall of the church, coming together as a community to restore their place of worship.
He added, “Most of the Christians are bonded laborers, and earn their living through modern day slavery in different sectors including local brick kilns and carpet making factories. This recent attack has placed great fear into all the local Christians.”
The BPCA said according to Saraoya, the cost of the incident will be as much as 100,000 rupees, or almost $950.00
BPCA has set up a fund to help the church. For more information email email@example.com.
To learn more about the BPCA visit www.britishpakistanichristians.org.
Photo captions: 1) Scene inside the burned church (BPCA). 2) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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