World News

Arson suspected behind church fire in Pakistan

The Christian congregation of the United Presbyterian Junior Church in Gujar Khan suspect the church fire on the 30th of March was deliberate.

Reverend Adeem Alphonse expressed his grief over the fire, which destroyed everything in his church: “Our church was targeted around 3 a.m. on Saturday. The huge fire burned everything inside the church, including holy books, the sound system, furniture and curtains, etc. We strongly suspect that it’s a case of arson, but the police and administration are trying to hush up the matter by deeming  to be  an outcome of a short-circuit in the electricity wiring.”

His congregation suspects a local Muslim businessman, Sheikh Ahmed is behind the fire. Ahmed has previously threatened Christians and tried to evict them from the church to build a plaza instead. He disturbed the Good Friday worship by attempting to tear down tent coverings set up outside the church building. 

Reverend Alphonse stated: “When the police stopped Ahmed from causing unrest, he threatened our church elders that he will not let us have Easter service at any cost. We resumed our Good Friday service thinking that the police would talk sense into him, but I was shocked when I received a telephone call the same night that my church was burning. When I reached the church, firefighters were engaged in dousing the fire while a huge police contingent was also present there. Everything inside was reduced to ashes. When we checked the electricity wiring, we did not see any signs of a short-circuit. Despite their meager resources, the congregation pooled funds and recently installed a new ceiling in the hall and bought a sound system, which have now been gutted by the fire. We held our Easter service in the basement hall of the Jinnah Hotel. They were initially reluctant to give us the hall due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but eventually agreed. Though we were able to have our Easter service, our hearts are deeply saddened by the destruction of our church, and we want justice from the government.”

City Police Officer Rawalpindi Syed Khalid Mehmood Hamdani released a press statement, declaring that the fire had been caused by a short circuit. He said they were conducting further investigations and would release a final report after a detailed forensic examination. The Christian congregation started a protest against their action, as they feel the police are covering for the perpetrator. They demanded a straightforward investigation. 

The incident is just one of the many atrocities against Pakistani Christians.



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