08/07/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan: bulldozers demolish church

by Qaiser Felix

The Christian community of Multan has protested against the demolition of a church by a fertilizer industry that wants to "expand". A nearby mosque was spared.

Multan (AsiaNews) – The Christian community of Multan in the central province of Punjab has protested against the allegedly illegal demolition of a church. According to local media, on 4 August, around 150 Christians protested against the Pak-Arab Fertilizers Limited factory that razed a Protestant church to the ground. The protesters blocked the Multan-Lahore road for a couple of hours after burning used tyres. They were demanding the opening of a judicial inquiry against the 'culprits'.

Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), condemned the "brutal" demolition of the church and demanded stern legal action against those responsible. Bhatti said the court was on the point of issuing an order not to go ahead with the demolition but the management of the factory went ahead: "They were not authorized to raze the church."

The APMA chairman said a mosque standing close by the church was not even touched. "Only the church, a symbol of the vulnerability of the Christian minority, fell victim to the intolerance of these industrialists."

A spokesman of the recently privatized Pak-Arab Fertilizers Limited stated that the church, which stood on land owned by the fertilizer company, was demolished in Multan on 3 August to "allow the industry to expand". Umair Ahmed said: "It was not done because of any religious motive." The spokesman added that the community had been given advance notice to vacate the church.

Yaqoob Masih, the parish priest, condemned the factory management and urged President Pervez Musharraf to take action. The priest said the factory management was now offering them money as compensation, but the community was not interested. He said: "We don't need money. We only need our church."

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