Man gunned down in Church construction riot in Pakistan
Latest February 2021
“Azeem is still unable to communicate and is half paralyzed from the right shoulder down. It is almost one year since my son got shot in the head in the mob attack regarding the church construction dispute and he is still in bed.” said Gulzar Masih, his father.
A small village in the district of east central Punjab is home to around 120 Christians among a Muslim majority. The villagers have worked on agricultural farms since the time of partition. This community doesn’t have a church for religious gatherings. They either gather in a house where they barely fit; or are forced to travel several kilometers to go to church.
Azeem, the father of an infant, is a tailor by profession. He donated his plot of land (with legal certificate of ownership) for a community church which shared a wall with the house of Muhammad Liaqat, a Muslim schoolteacher. Liaqat strongly opposed the intention of church construction in the village and instigated others to stop it.
One evening Muhammad Liaqat and others equipped with firearms, sticks and axes, began to demolish the boundary wall that the Christians had begun to build. Upon the arrival of Gulzar Masih and some faithful others, who wanted to prevent the demolition, the attackers opened fire, seriously injuring three Christian men: namely Azeem, Sajjad and Razaq.
CAPC learned in its representative’s recent visit to the family, that the court case has been withdrawn. “We are not rich enough to pursue lengthy court cases. There was a lot of pressure for settlement. We had to give up because we have to continue to live in this community. A church building in our community is direly needed, but it can only happen if the district government allots some place for this purpose. Without this, there is no hope.” said Azeem’s brother, Waseem.
“Azeem is still under protracted medical care which is quite costly. Please do something for him; he needs continued support till he is back on his feet and able to earn his own livelihood,” said his mother, looking at Azeem’s tear-filled eyes.