11/14/2005, 00.00
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Pakistani Church leader express solidarity to Christian village attacked

by Peter Jacob

Lahore (AsiaNews) - A number of Church leaders paid a solidarity visit to the Christian community of Sangla Hill on November 14, after a group of 2,000 Muslim destroyed churches and Christian properties, following allegations of blasphemy at a young Christian.

Among the visitors there were Msgr Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop of Lahore Catholic diocese; Bishop Alexander John Malik, Moderator Church of Pakistan; Mr. Victor Azraiah, National Council of Churches in Pakistan; representatives of Salvation Army, Bishop Samuel Azariah; Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, National director National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP); Fr. Andrew Ansari, Vicar General of Lahore Catholic dioceses; legislator Mr. Akram Masih Gill; Mr. Irfan Barkat and Ms. Ayra Indrias, the staff members of NCJP.

Federal Ministers for Railways who belong to the area and General Secretary Of Muslim League Punjab visited Sangla Hills.

On Saturday 12th  an angry crowd of around 2,000 Muslim people, incited by their religious leader, marched to the village of Sangla Hill. They first vandalized and then set on fire three churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the houses of a Protestant pastor and a parish priest, a girls' hostel, and some Christian homes. The Lahore archdiocese deplored the failure of police to stop the violence.

Mr. Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi Chief Minister of Punjab met the Church leaders at Archbishop's House Lahore on November 14. He expressed his grief over the incident and promised action against the culprits as well as the reconstruction cost of the destroyed Churches and other buildings. The Bishops demanded that Chief Minister should visit the site and take steps to eradicate religious intolerance, terrorism and work towards the repeal of blasphemy laws.

The Church leaders also announced that all schools belonging to Churches will be closed on November 17, as a mark of protest.

NCJP Rawalpindi office organized a press conference at Rawalpindi today, while Idara Aman-o-Insaf (Commission for Justice and Peace) Karachi is issuing a press statement about the incident.

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) Quetta along with local organizations will hold a protest - seminar at Quetta on November 15, 2005 

Expressions of solidarity to Pakistani Christian are coming from different parts of the world.

Mr. Yaqoob Anjum Bhatti and Mr. Ernest Paul – Philadelphia (USA) spoke at a Radio and issued a press statement from their organization – They announced a protest in front of Pakistan embassy at Washington if government failed to take action within three days.

Mr. Shadab Khokhar and companions are meeting the Canadian Parliamentarians at Toronto (Canada). They have also planned a demonstration in - front of the Pakistan Embassy.

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