Pakistani Christians fear more violence if they press charges over attack

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Members of the local Christian community stand in front of the new church they are building (World Watch Monitor)

A land dispute between Christian and Muslim villagers in rural Pakistan ended with a mob attack on the Christian community, but no charges against the attackers.

A 10-year-old boy’s arm was broken and two women were beaten and had their clothes torn when a mob of at least men and women descended upon the Christian community in Warn village, Kasur district, on 2 August.

This came after false accusations that Christian youths had stoned a Muslim man to death for attempting to claim land belonging to the Christians, who make up around a fifth of the village’s population.

Now, almost two months later, the Christian villagers, who are mostly illiterate and work as labourers at the local brick kiln, say they are too scared to file an official complaint with the police, for fear of further attacks.

One local Christian, Bashir Masih, third from the right in the above photo, told World Watch Monitor his community wouldn’t “expect anything to come out of it” if the matter were investigated. “Rather it will fan more hatred and they will come back to beat us again,” he said.

Why the attack?

Earlier on the day of the attack, a dispute had taken place over a piece of land belonging to the local Catholic church, St. Matthew’s, which borders on a field owner by a Muslim man, Mukhtar Hussain.

In January, Hussain had filed an application with the local court to cultivate the land. His application was rejected, but, on 2 August, he and five others, including his three sons, began clearing the area with a tractor.

“It was around 10am and most of the men had gone to work when Mukhtar’s sons started clearing the land,” recalled Bashir Masih, who is the church treasurer. “Immediately, Christians, who were mostly women and children, started gathering there and tried to stop them. Seventy-year-old Mukhtar and others were holding sticks and beat two Christian women, Biquis Bibi, 35, and Nasreen Bibi, 60. At this, young [Christian] children threw stones at them and one hit Mukhtar on his nose and blood started coming out.

“These Muslims immediately spread news that he had died after Christians hit him with a stone.

“After only a few minutes, about 50 to 60 men and women gathered and unleashed an attack on the houses of Christians. They beat anyone they found and, when Christians locked themselves in their houses, they smashed the entrance gates and also scaled walls. Inside the houses, they insulted women, beat them and injured them.

“We were working about a kilometre away at our brick kiln. When we were informed about this, we rushed to our homes and also informed the police. Mukhtar’s people were still beating Christians inside their homes when the police arrived.

“Despite the court’s order, Mukhtar has encroached the land and we are so powerless in this matter.”

World Watch Monitor asked the local police chief, Muhammad Idrees, why there had been no arrests. He said the police had not yet received a complaint from the Christian community and could not act without one.

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