ACN News: Monday, 16th January 2012 – PAKISTAN
Pakistan: Authorities order bulldozing of Caritas centre
By Eva–Maria Kolmann
In the north-eastern Pakistani Archdiocese of Lahore, a centre of the Church-affiliated charitable organisation Caritas was illegally demolished on the order of the Punjab Province government, Father Emmanuel Yousaf, Chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
According to Yousaf, the building complex, which housed several social service institutions – including a retirement home – was demolished under the supervision of the highest official of the local government, under police protection and using heavy machinery. Caritas as the legal owner was not informed in advance of this action. Although the operators of the institutions were able to present proof of ownership on site and without delay, they were told by the officials that the building complex had become the property of the government of Punjab Province.
(Fr.Yousaf speaks to a member of the media at the site of the unlawfully demolished Caritas Centre in Lahore)
The centre was previously the object of a legal dispute in 2007 when it was illegally expropriated by the government after a woman convert to Islam, who had made use of the services of Caritas and found shelter in the centre, claimed ownership of the premises she was inhabiting. “Due to delays and religious bias, the courts are failing to help us even though we possess all the documents to prove that the centre belongs to Caritas.”
On Tuesday 11th of January, Christians in Lahore demonstrated peacefully against the demolition of the building complex. Fr Emmanuel Yousaf called on Christians around the world to pray for Pakistan’s Christians. He also added that it would help if Christians in the West urged the politicians of their countries to discuss the issue with their Pakistani colleagues and demand a solution to the problems of religious minorities.
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