Around 40 Christian families in Nayya Sarabah village of Toba Tek Singh district near Faisalabad have been told to remove every visible sign of Christianity from their church, six months after being forced to sign a form pledging they would no longer hold services.
According to World Watch Monitor, the village is dominated by Muslims and as a resident, Hajji Muhammad Siddique commented, “Muslims are in the majority in the village, we can’t allow a church here.”
“Now we are working with the civil administration to give a piece of land to Christians outside the village,” he added.
Most of the Christians of the village work as brick-kiln labourers and Rafaqat Masih retired army official have helped build a church in the village that belongs to Full Gospel Assemblies, an evangelical group working in Pakistan.
The church is run by Pastor Samuel Masih, but Rafaqat Masih, a union councillor for minorities, who has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve the matter.
The construction of the church began in 2012 and had been holding worship services since then. But in December 2016 the local Muslims objected over it and filed an application against the minorities. At that time, a compromise was reached and services were held again.
In December 2017, an application was submitted in the police station, after which the Christians were told to sign an agreement.
The Christians in the village have therefore not held a service this year, but have made frequent visits to the civil administration to either permit them to hold services in their church or to provide them with an alternative venue.
However, earlier this month the villagers were called in for another meeting in the presence of Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Tahir where they were ordered to demolish the existing structure and, in lieu of this, they would let us build a church on a piece of government land outside the village which is already dedicated for a school.
It was further reported by the police that the Christians being forced to pledge to end services was not legal. “We are trying to amicably resolve this matter,” Tahir said.
“Christians are peace-loving people,” said Full Gospel Assemblies Principal Dr Liaquat M Qaiser. “We don’t desire any conflict. If the local Muslims do not want Christians worshipping among them, then they should provide them with an alternative place. They are poor people and do not have resources to buy another place and build a church once again.”