Thursday, September 01, 2011

PAKISTAN – Christian villagers homeless after elopement row


A number of Christians remain homeless months after being expelled from a Punjab village where a Christian man eloped with a Muslim woman.
Release partner Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) reports that all 41 Christians in Guru Chack village, Duska district, were forced to abandon their homes in March for fear of attack by local Muslims. Now they are being refused re-entry into their village, according to SLMP.
Two 17-year-old Christians arrested for alleged involvement in the elopement are still being held in Sialkot District Prison. The pair, named only as Sunny and Qaiser, deny the charges. Two other Christians accused of involvement – both of whom are 26 – are said to be in hiding.
When news of the elopement first broke, local Muslims reacted angrily by attacking and beating several Christians. They then called an 'arbitrary council' and decided to expel all seven Christian families from Guru Chack on March 18, threatening to destroy their homes unless they complied.
SLMP reports that the Christians' homes have been burgled and many assets, including livestock, stolen. Some of the Christians are now staying with relatives but others are homeless.
One Christian man, Gulfam Zia, told SLMP that Christians had lived peaceably with Muslims in the village before this incident. 'This incident changed the lives of Christians in the village entirely,' he said. His two sisters, Fehmeeda and Saima, were due to get married next month but have had to postpone their weddings because their dowries have been stolen.
Attempts to bring the burglars to justice have failed; police have refused even to register a case. In fact, SLMP reports that police were present at the council meeting where local Muslims decided to expel the Christians.
SLMP says this is yet another case of poor Christians in Pakistan being treated as second-class citizens and being denied justice. Christians in the village are poor farm labourers, working for Muslim landowners. The Release partner has raised this case with a senior police official.
SLMP is also supporting Sunny and Qaiser in jail and is providing practical and spiritual support for the poorest Christians, including Sunny's family.
(Source: Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan)
• Pray that the Christian families from Guru Chack can return to their homes and live in peace again with their Muslim neighbours. Pray that what has been stolen from them will be restored.
• Pray that the case against the four Christians accused of involvement in the elopement will be dropped. Pray for protection and wisdom for SLMP staff, who often put themselves at risk to stand up for the rights of Pakistan's Christian minority.

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