07/05/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Christian hospital under attack in Pakistan

Jibran Khan
A group of Muslims tries to seize forcibly a Christian hospital in Taxila, 32 kilometres from the capital Islamabad by making false claims with police. The intervention of Christian leaders and Bishop Rufin Anthony stops the threat.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – An attempt by a group of Muslims to take over the Christian Hospital in Taxila was recently foiled. On Saturday, Malik Nur Muhammad, Malik Riaz and Malik Abdul Razzak, influential local Muslims, filed a First Information Report (FIR) with police against the administration of the hospital. The facility, which is located almost 32 kilometres from Islamabad, was established by United Presbyterian Church. They complainants say they bought the hospital and accuse the administrators of refusing to hand it over. They also accuse the current administration of blasphemy but did not include such an accusation in their original application.

After filing their complaint, Malik Nur Muhammad, Malik Riaz and Malik Abdul Razzak went to the Christian hospital to have the administrators arrested based on their charges. Four members of the staff were held by police. However, the hospital director Ashchenaz M. Lall rejected the claims made by the Muslims.

“The property was not sold,” he said. “Malik Nur and his sons, with the help of a local politician from the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) fabricated a case against the administration of the Christian hospital. The Christian hospital was established in 1922 by missionaries from the United Presbyterian Mission. Only the Presbyterian board holds the right to sell the property. This is an attempt to take over a missionary property by force.”

The Catholic Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony went to the Christian Hospital in Taxila and contacted various Christian activists and leaders.

Upon the involvement of the Catholic Church, the district coordination officer (DCO) in Rawalpindi, Saqib Zafar, also travelled to Taxila where he ordered an immediate investigation into the matter.

“The initial investigation has revealed that the claims made by Malik Nur Muhammad are false,” DCO Zafar said. “There are loopholes in the FIR. It was registered on the backing an influential politician belonging to the PML-N. We will make sure that the culprits are arrested."

“This is not a first attempt to take over Church or missionary property by force,” Bishop Rufin Anthony told AsiaNews. “The Christian Hospital in Taxila has been targeted by various groups in the past," the prelate explained.

"The Catholic Church has always stood by the Churches that have been attacked by extremists. We are closely monitoring the situation and I am in constant touch with the authorities. We demand the government arrest the culprits and set an example so that such incidents are not repeated."

Samson Simon Sharaf, principal of St. Mary`s College and a Catholic activist, also condemned the incident and visited the Christian Hospital in Taxila. “Religious sentiments against Christians were exploited for petty self-interest," he said, "and could have led to large scale rioting and arson like in Gojra. A big fiasco was averted" (see Fareed Khan, “Eight Christians burned alive in Punjab,” in AsiaNews, 1 August 2009).
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