An operation to clear “illegal” settlements in the heart of the archdiocese has led to the demolition of several places of worship, including the St Joseph Catholic Church, forcing the faithful to pray amid the ruins. There is concern for families who lost their homes, while new evictions are planned.
Karachi (AsiaNews) – The St Joseph Catholic Church in St Philip parish, Archdiocese of Karachi, has been demolished in late August. Fouzia Bibi, a local Catholic woman, remembers the day it happened.
“When they demolished our church, we were all in tears and we could not stop them,” she said. “There were too many policemen to stop the crowd who wanted to stop the destruction.”
During the demolition, “the bulldozers knocked down the walls and the pillars and the roof collapsed due to lack of support.”
The St Joseph church was one of the buildings demolished on 25 August during the evictions in Sadiq Nagar, along the Gujjar Nala, a stream that runs through the Archdiocese of Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city.
Local media have described the operation as an “anti-encroachment” campaign by the government to clear out several illegal settlements in the area.
Various places of worship were affected. Three churches affiliated with the Philadelphia Evangelical Church, a Pentecostal denomination, were completely demolished, while half of St Joseph's Catholic Church collapsed. Many houses were also torn down or rendered uninhabitable.
“Last Sunday we celebrated Mass among the ruins of the demolished church,” Fouzia Bibi said. “This was possible thanks to the local Caritas that provided tarpaulins and other materials to cover and shelter at least part of the church.”
Many parishioners said they were willing to rebuild the walls of the building and support the families most affected by the eviction.
Meanwhile, the number of homeless families increases from week to week and the situation could get worse in the coming days.
In fact, a team of engineers from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) is planning a new inspection to evaluate the next stage in the eviction programme.