Pakistani Christians ask for protection as 'builder mafia' attempts to seize church

Christians in Hyderabad, Pakistan are asking the government for help and protection as a "builder mafia" tries to seize a church standing on a prime commercial spot.

(REUTERS / Mani Rana)Women from the Christian community carry a sign during a protest after a suicide attack on a church in Lahore March 15, 2015.

Munawar Gill, a resident at the compound in Sukkur where the Church of St. Saviour's is situated, said police arrived on Dec. 21 and asked to see the proof of ownership. On New Year's Eve, a group of 20 people --- some wearing police uniforms --- arrived and roughed up the people in the compound using clubs, Christian Today details.

The attack left about 20 people injured, including women and children. A physical education teacher in Sukkur college, Prof. Suleman Sohail, found his legs were broken. His son was also hurt in the beating incident.

In the wake of the attack, around 4,500 Christians staged a protest in front of the Sukkur Press Club. The director of anti-persecution watchdog CLAAS-UK said the builder mafia aims to forcefully get the church property and redevelop it.

"The land mafia grabs or buys these properties very cheap from the pseudo owners and then develop them and sell them for the large profits," said CLAAS-UK director Nasir Saeed. "This is not the only church property but there are several church properties throughout Pakistan that have ownership disputes and cases are going on in courts for years."

In a news conference on Monday, Bishop Kaleem John of the Diocese of Hyderabad Church of Pakistan has called on their national leaders to look into what the builder mafia is doing and to make a move that will let the minorities in Sukkur feel safer. He said the property-grabbing activities are just part of a greater move to stir instability among the country's minorities, Pakistan Today reports.

According to Bishop John, the builder mafia still continues to threaten the residents at the church compound even if the Diocese of Hyderabad Church of Pakistan had already secured a permit from court of law. The bishop, who said he was responsible for monitoring church properties in Sindh except Karachi, also said the mafia wanted the residents to leave the property.

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