Mission World - March, 2012

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lahore has condemned the unlawful demolition of its property in Lahore by Punjab Government, terming it a criminal move of land- grabbing by the government functionaries.

The Gosha-e-Aman*, (a home for elderly people, a girls school, a convent and a Catholic church) was demolished in the early hours of January 10, 2012 by police authorized by the government of Punjab.

The property has been land-grabbed by the government of the Punjab. The ruling party in the Punjab is the Pakistan Muslim League (N) headed by Nawaz Sharif whose brother is Chief Minister of the Punjab.

Controversially, government officials have claimed that no action can be taken until the return in early February of the Chief Minister of the Punjab from a visit to Germany and other EU countries.

The District Coordinating Officer (DCO), the highest civil servant of the district, supervised the demolition. Heavy machinery was used in the demolition with a contingent of police present.

The DCO ordered workers and their families residing there to move out of the building and started demolition. The DCO and other police officials present at the time of demolition claimed that the property had been transferred to the Punjab government. No document has been shown to support the claim. No court order was served on the legal property holders (Lahore Charitable Association).

Bishop Sebastian Shaw, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Lahore, stated that the Church had proof of ownership of the site dating back to 1887, and condemned the provincial government of Punjab, accusing it of “carrying out a criminal act of land-grabbing”.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need on January 10 immediately after the demolition, Bishop Sebastian said he had summoned priests of the diocese to a crisis meeting and was having a High Court writ to try and reclaim the site. He said: “What the State Government of Punjab has done is a very brutal act of injustice.

Saying that the Church had not received prior warning of the demolition, Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, said: “We have the papers to show who are the rightful owners of the site. The government has deliberately falsified the case.” He said that the site is still in the name of the Lahore Charitable Association, a trust made up of clergy and lay people from different Christian denominations with the Catholic Bishop of Lahore presiding as chairman.

"The site is very valuable and the provincial government is anxious to profit from it.”

This act of violence carried out by the Punjab government reflects a dramatic change in policy towards Christians and religious minorities in the Punjab.

It has been one year since the assassination, on January 4, 2011, of Salman Taseer, Governor of the Punjab who was outspoken in his criticism of the oppression of Christians and minority groups.

*The Gosha-e-Aman, Lahore is run by a board of the Catholic Church and managed by CARITAS Pakistan.

Mission Intention for March

That the Holy Spirit may grant perseverance to those who suffer discrimination, persecution or death for the name of Christ, particularly in Asia.

Read more from The Far East, March 2012