01/20/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Pakistani Muslims attack church, torture Christians

Qaiser Felix
At the origin of the violence is a dispute over land acquired by a Catholic of the village, and the marriage between a Christian young man and a Muslim young woman. In spite of the charges, the local police have not yet arrested anyone.

Kot Lakha Singh (AsiaNews) - Muslim groups have attacked a church and Christian homes in the village of Kot Lakha Singh, in the district of Narowal, province of Punjab. The incident goes back to January 14, and the news was released by Pakistan's National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), after verifying the event with a fact-finding mission carried out on January 19.

Irfan Barkat, legal-aid advisor of the NCJP, tells AsiaNews that the violence began with an attack on the home of William Masih, a Catholic of the village. An unspecified number of people tortured those present, including women and children, and then stole money and gold objects from the home. The crowd then attacked the homes of three other Christian families in the village, broke into the church, which is used by both the Catholic and Protestant community, and damaged the furniture and tore the liturgical books and bibles.

The events were reported on January 18 to the police of Nindo Ki, who have not yet made any arrests.

The head of the NCJP explains that at the origin of the violence is the dispute over land that Masih bought a few months ago from a Muslim. The property is also claimed by another inhabitant of the village, Noor Muhammad, who says that he is the legitimate proprietor.

Irfan Barkat says that the small Christian community of Kot Lakha Singh is made up of 25 families (Catholic and Protestant) that, in the overwhelmingly Islamic village, are subjected to constant harassment: "Muslims of the village have socially boycotted the Christians, and Muslim shopkeepers have refused to sell daily use items to Christians."

The everyday tension has been increased by the recent marriage between a Christian young man and Muslim young woman in the village. This has irritated the Muslims, who are now trying to do whatever they can to make the Christians pay for what they believe to be an affront.

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