Pastor bemoans offence to faith after Christian cemetery desecrated in Punjab
by Shafique Khokhar

The graveyard is located next to St Anthony Catholic Church in Chak 10/4-L-Antoniabad, a village near the city of Okara. Among the desecrated tombs are those of two priests. Fear now prevails in the local Christian community.

Okara (AsiaNews) – Unknown criminals have desecrated a cemetery in Pakistan, vandalising crosses on graves, on the night of 11 and 12 May, in Chak 10/4-L-Antoniabad, a village not far from the city of Okara (Punjab province).

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr James Bahadur said that this “is an offence to our faith, our religious feelings are hurt. We demand justice from the government. All those who did this must be arrested and punished.” Locals are frightened by the hatred of unknown people around them.”

The damage to the Christian graveyard was discovered by parishioners the following morning, as they returned home after Sunday Mass. They immediately informed the pastor, who filed a complaint with the police. Investigations are ongoing, but for now no one has been arrested.

About 100 Christian families live in the village of Chak 10/4-L-Antoniabad. The cemetery is located next to St Anthony Catholic Church and is protected by a 1.2 metre wall. Christians from surrounding villages also use the site to bury their dead.

Once called in, police collected all the evidence and placed a policeman to guard the cemetery. Church officials also visited the village on 14 May and talked to parishioners and clergy.

One of the officials, Youhana Ishaq, field coordinator for the Faisalabad office of the National Justice and Peace Commission, brought the comfort of the Pakistani Church.

According to preliminary findings, the vandals also desecrated the graves of two priests. On the day of the incident a crowd of over 200 people were attending the Sunday service in the church.

During the meeting, Fr Bahadur reiterated the need to remain calm, despite the seriousness of the facts. "We should stay calm and control our religious feelings,” he said, “because the police are cooperating with us and we should not protest at this stage."