02/03/2012, 00.00
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Pakistani Church in court to challenge the demolition of Catholic institute

by Jibran Khan
The director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace goes before the High Court with “full confidence in our legal system.” Provincial lawmaker says he will raise the issue in the Punjab Assembly. For some Catholics, it is not only a matter of demolition but also blasphemy and the destruction of sacred objects.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistani Church has petitioned the High Court in Lahore against what it deems the illegal demolition on 10 January of the Gosh-e-Aman Institute by the Punjab provincial government. The ‘Place of Peace’ was open to Christians and Muslims.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, is leading the challenge in court. “We have full confidence in our legal system,” he said. “We have filed the case for illegal demolishing of Gosh-e-Aman” and “are trying to do whatever we can for the displaced.”

Provincial lawmaker Pervaiz Rafique said that he would raise the matter in the Punjab Assembly and demand government officials explain why they had Church property illegally demolished.

Former residents of the facility are also fighting for the return of the property. Zenobia Richards, 61, is among them and she does not spare the local Catholic hierarchy from her criticism.

In fact, “the Catholic Church has filed the petition only for illegal demolition, not for the desecration of the Church. This is unacceptable. I have filed a case at the Lahore High Court against the desecration of the Bible, Mary`s statue and the rosary.”

She is fighting for her rights and blames provincial minister Kamran Michael, a Christian, whose role in the whole affair is suspicious.

Established in 1887, the Gosh-e-Aman Institute stood on a 2-acre area now worth billions of rupees. It had senior citizens’ home, a girls’ school, a convent and a chapel.

On orders of the provincial government, the structure was demolished on 10 January.

The legal arguments over who owned the building and the land has been going on for some time; at least since a woman convert to Islam had sought shelter in the facility.

An official with the Lahore Development Authority said the government owned the land that had been taken over by people involved with the land mafia, including the Christian woman convert to Islam, Agnus, who claimed she owned the land and had papers to prove it.

However, all she did was live in a section of the building and when demolition began she fled without leaving any trace.
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