Muslims level Christian graves with tractors in Sialkot
by Shafique Khokhar

Those responsible claim as their own the land where the historic cemetery stands. The authorities have not yet intervened. However, Christians in Banawali received support from Muslims fellow villagers.

Sialkot (AsiaNews) – Some Muslims destroyed Christian graves with tractors Sialkot, a district in north-western Punjab.

“They demolished my father’s grave,” said Baba Gulzar Masih. His father, Rakha Masih, “told me before he died that he wanted to be buried close to his parents.”

The cemetery in the village of Banawali is older than Pakistan itself, locals note. Christian residents, backed by Muslim neighbours, took their case to the authorities, but their protest got short shrift.

Rev Samuel Mukhtar, pastor of the Holy Unity Ministry Church, told AsiaNews that some Muslims claim the cemetery’s land as their own and threatened to remove all the graves. On Tuesday, they levelled the graves with tractors.

Members of the Christian community tried to contact officials in Sialkot, including the local assistant commissioner and the media.

Some reported the incident as the local police station, but so far no one has been shown any interest in the matter.

"This is not the first time such things happen," said Usmaan, coordinator of Masihi Awaz (the Voice of Christians):

“Pakistan’s Christian community has suffered from widespread discrimination, and no one listens to their voice or defends them.”

Usmaan urged the authorities, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, to uphold the rights of Christians.

Some Muslim villagers supported the Christians and joined the appeal, noting that locals always lived in brotherhood, and that this type of incidents creates disunity.