01/30/2014, 00.00
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Karachi’s Christians, crushed by the land mafia, seek help from Church

by Jibran Khan
The community of Horizon Plaza is subject to abuse, violence and discrimination. Since 2011, local land mafia backed by authroities have stolen homes, property and assets. Despite the complaints, so far police and prosecutors have never taken any action . Diocesan priest demands justice "for those who suffer".

Islamabad ( AsiaNews) - Christians in Horizon Plaza, a district of Karachi, are victims of continued incidents of abuse , violence and discrimination in the complete indifference, if not connivance , of the police forces and institutions. Economic interests and the question of land possession for business and commercial initiatives - are behind the attacks. Even the Pakistani organizations that fight for human rights have been unable to resolve the situation and restore peace and security to the people. Now the community have appealed to the Catholic Church, to intervene on their behalf.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr . George Montgomery, a diocesan priest in Karachi, confirms that the case is being considered by court judges although so far there have been no significant developments. "We demand justice for those who suffer" added the priest, who describes the security situation in the metropolis to the south of the country as "shaky". "The land mafia - he explains -are taking advantage of the situation that affects the most marginalized groups ."

The drama of the Christian community of Horizon Plaza began in 2011, when some landlords in the area - with the support of leading political parties - illegally occupied apartments and houses, evicting tenants with regular permits and ownership rights. Complaints to police went unheeded, while the abusive occupants committed all sorts of abuse and bullying against residents, particularly women. Not even a petition to the High Court , which is still pending , has had any effect. Any appeal to the political and institutional leaders has so far fallen on deaf ears . Meanwhile, attacks against buildings and property of Christians have increased , which is why the community has been left with no other solution than seek help from the Catholic Church of Pakistan .

Disputes over land and property have arisen several times in the past: in October 2011, two Christian brothers in Faisalabad were abducted by a Muslim family of landowners for whom they worked. The kidnap was motivated by economic disputes between the landowners and laborers, in the absolute indifference of the police. A month later the Catholic activist Akram Masih, father of four, was murdered by the land mafia for his fight for the rights of the poorest, especially Christians.

With more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and the second largest Muslim country after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are about 20 per cent of the total. There are also small communities of Hindus (1.85 per cent), Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).  Violence against ethnic or religious minorities has been on rise in recent years with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main targets.


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