ASIA/PAKISTAN - The government of Punjab demolishes a Caritas lodging: for the Church it is a "criminal move", we resort to Court

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Many Pakistani Christians, priests, nuns and activists from the Commission "Justice and Peace" of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan gathered today in Lahore to protest and assert their rights: the Catholic Church condemns with force the illegal demolition of one of her properties and the requisition of a piece of land, ordered by the Government of Punjab in Lahore. "It is a criminal move of 'land grabbing' (subtraction of land), implemented by government officials", said the Commission "Justice and Peace" in a note sent to Fides. The institution "Gosha-e-Aman" ("house for foreigners") was demolished yesterday, January 10, situated in Allama Iqbal Road in Lahore, run by a Council of the Catholic Church and Caritas Pakistan. The house was built in 1887 and has always had solidarity objectives. The property included two acres of land, worth billions of rupees. The complex included a nursing home for old people, a girls' school, a convent and a chapel. The highest-ranking official of the District (District Coordinating Officer, DCO) was pesent at the moment of the demolition, who personally coordinated the operations. Police officers evacuated a couple of families who resided in the building. The GP Commission denounces: "The DCO sustains that the property was transferred to the Government of Punjab, without having shown any document. Nor was any notice sent to the legal owners of the property". In addition, many copies of the Holy Bible, religious objects and vestments were destroyed. Fr. Emmanuel (Mani) Yousaf, President of the Commission "Justice and Peace", condemns the arbitrary act of the government, and asks "that the property is returned to the owners and compensation for damage suffered". Fr. Yousaf, showing documents confirming the ownership of the lot, today announced that "the Church will appeal to the High Court in Lahore". Referring to past incidents of attacks against religious minorities, Fr. Mani said that "the government should stop putting the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan at risk". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/01/2012)