A mob of armed Muslims attacked, beat and stopped Christian villagers from constructing a church building in the village of Chak 211/EB, located near Arifwala, in the Pakpattan district of Pakistan’s Punjab province on November 4. According to local Christians, they are being denied their basic constitutional rights by village leaders.
Led by a local landlord named Chaudhry Saleem Gujar, the mob of armed Muslims confronted the Christians erecting a boundary wall and gate that would surround a new church building. The mob then demolished the wall and beat the Christians present.
A mason working on the church building said in a video post to Facebook, “I was working when Muslim men stopped me from completing my work. They said, ‘We cannot allow you to build the church because when you pray, we get disturbed,’” according to International Christian Concern.
“The Christian community has been struggling to build a church in the village for about 20 years,” Naseer, a local catechist, told International Christian Concern (ICC). “We had several meeting with local officials and the religious leadership of the Muslim community. We haven’t seen encouraging results.”
According to Naseer, local Muslims have told the Christians that they are not allowed to build a church in the village because Pakistan is an Islamic country. The Muslims went on to say that Christians should be content with merely being allowed to build their houses and live in the country.
Over 50 Christian families have lived in Chak 211/EB for decades. According to local reports, a Christian family donated a piece of land to the Christian leadership for the construction of what would be the village’s only church.
According to local Christians, the police are backing the Muslim landlord and have arrested eight Christian men. Other Christians have also been threatened if they continue to build the church. “Muslims have threatened us that if we do not stop building church, they will set our houses on fire,” a local Christian told ICC.
The District Superintendent Police has reportedly suggested the Christians get written permission from the authorities to resolve the conflict.
According to Pakistan’s constitution, religious freedom is a protected right. Article 20 states, “a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion; and b) every religious denomination and every sect therefore shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.”