Two more churches vandalised in Karachi

Two churches have been vandalised within 10 days in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2012, 17:17 PM IST

Islamabad: Two churches have been vandalised within 10 days in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, taking the total number of churches attacked this year to six and triggering concern in the minority Christian community.

The Philadelphia Pentecostal Church of Pakistan, situated in a congested lane of Essa Nagri neighbourhood of Karachi, was attacked on Thursday.

Armed men barged into its premises during a power outage, vandalised it and fled with Rs 40,000, The Express Tribune reported today.

"The church was closed at that time. The men broke the windows, threw the Bibles on the floor and took away cash donations worth Rs 40, 000," said Rev Cornelius, the pastor of the church.

The incident occurred 10 days after the St Francis Church in Old Haji Camp area was attacked by violent protesters demonstrating against power cuts.

In a rare move, police registered a case under the blasphemy law against the mob.

The report said the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church of Pakistan was the latest "to fall victim to the growing intolerance" in Karachi.

Since the beginning of the year, at least six churches have been attacked, looted, fired upon or set ablaze.

These churches are located in Christian slums surrounded by various ethnic communities, the report said.

Half of the targeted churches are located in Essa Nagri, one of the areas in Karachi with the largest Christian population.

Bordered by ethnic groups and political activists, the neighbourhood, which is home to 30 churches, has witnessed a surge in criminal activities against minorities.

Michael Javed, a resident and a Christian leader, said the community had recently built five walls to separate their area from other communities.

"But the police tore down one of the walls to make a gateway for people to go to their mosques. And the church got looted the very next day," he said.

Christians were being victimised because political parties wanted to take over the area to form their constituencies, he contended.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church in Essa Nagri was attacked in May, when armed men barged into the area, seeking an illegal electricity connection from a pole just before evening mass was to commence.

A church member, Aftab Bhatti, tried to stop the men who
opened fire.

"They desecrate churches on purpose knowing that it will hurt us most," said Bhatti, who was shot in his leg.

When angry Christians protested against the desecration of the church, they were fired at and two more persons were injured.

During the same month, St Luke`s Church in Essa Nagri, located opposite the home of minority parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar, was attacked.

"Churches are being attacked to prevent people from practising their religion freely. We all are Pakistanis and our house of worship should be given protection and security," Khokhar said.

Political activists were behind unrest in Christian areas to pressure people to join their parties, he said.

Earlier in the year, a church in Manghopir was wrecked by a group of people praying in a mosque who were irked by schoolchildren singing hymns in the church.
Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the "Taliban mindset" is involved in attacking minorities and their houses of worship.

"They are the same people who are killing Ahmadis on one hand, and attacking churches to terrorise minorities," he said.

In most cases, minorities refuse to register complaints as they fear a reprisal while police try to play down the incidents.

Despite visiting the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church of Pakistan, police station chief Asif Munawar refused to comment on the matter, saying an investigation will be carried out when a case was registered.