‘Convert or leave’: Christians of Salik Town at their wit’s end as communal dispute intensifies

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Christians of Sallik Town- a neighborhood of Faisalabad are on pins and needles as they face a “convert or leave,” situation. As a consequence of a communal dispute, Christian residents of Salik Town are facing threats to leave the area or convert if they wish to continue living in the neighborhood. Their predicament is a consequence of a communal dispute which arose after a local Christian girl eloped with a Muslim boy.

attack on churches in Faisalabad

A recent attack on Palm Sunday procession was a repercussion of clash between both the communities. Pastor Shahid Paul Bhatti, in charge of the Christ Assemblies Church International in Salik Town has revealed that his congregation was attacked on Palm Sunday, April 9. Vandals attacked the congregants just when they were preparing for the Palm Sunday Procession. Consequently, intimidated Christians staged a protest outside the Faisalabad Press Club, urging for legal action against the perpetrators.

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Pastor Shahid has revealed that sometime ago, a Christian girl from the congregation had eloped with a Muslim and had married him after converting to Islam. Pastor Shahid stated the church administration has become obnoxious to the local Muslim community and the alleged gang involved in the attack because of the fact that the church had aided the family of the girl in pursuing legal action against the culprit. He said that the youngster who had managed deceive Christian girl into converting and marrying him is a family member of the assailants.

Soon after the news of this marriage spread in the area, local influential people had decided that the newly wedded couple will not be allowed to return to the neighborhood, as this may cause dissensions between local Christians and Muslims. Pastor Shahid claims that the gangsters are targeting those who had succored the family of the girl and had been a helping hand in pursuing legal action against the perpetrator. Pastor Shahid went on to mention the names of the people who had been threatening the entire Christian community. “Rana Kashif, Rana Atif and Kishwar Bibi and Rana Sakif are threatening us,” he said. Rana Sakif had eloped with the Christian girl and married her after converting her.

He revealed that same people have presented several complaints against him and other members of the Christian community in various police stations. He said that as Easter approaches, he and his congregants are anticipating similar incidents and are seeking security from the local police.

Pastor Shahid informed that the situation continues to worsen in the neighborhood as the Christian residents of Salik Town are being pressurized to either convert or leave the neighborhood. He said that he had obtained a pre-arrest bail because a fabricated FIR has been registered against him in order to pressurize him and the entire Christian community of Salik Town.

For this reason, Pastor Shahid has written a an application to a police official, text of this letter as below:

Dated 15-04-2017.

To the,

Senior Superintendent Investigations,
Punjab Police, District Faisalabad.

Subject: Application for affirmative action to grant immediate acquittal from false accusations.

Honorable Sir,

It is humbly stated that I am an ordained Pastor and has been serving the Christian community as Pastor In charge at Christ Assemblies Church International at Salak Town, Malkhanwala road, Faisalabad. I am also member of District coordination committee established by Government of Punjab.

On 16 December 2016, a Christian young girl belonged to my church congregation got married with a Muslim boy after elopement. Poor parents of the said girl lodged an FIR at Police Station, Sadar Faisalabad for the recovery of their daughter in which I facilitated them as religious leader in the best interest of justice for the said family.
Since the incident of elopement was took place the Muslim families are taking revenge for the facilitation provided by me as the Pastor of that Christian family. In the revenge with the facilitation of so called journalists many applications have been filed at different police stations. FIRs and writ petitions were also lodged for my character assassination. I am also receiving threats of dire consequences by Muslim people belonged to said family.

A fresh FIR has been lodged couple of days ago, against me and other 4 noble members of my Church which is based on false accusations. It is worth mention that an application and writ petition were filed against us and we rushed to Police Station accompanying with dozens of people belonged to Salak town for justification and to share that we are innocent and noble person and denied all false allegations. SHO of said police station assured us that matter is solved but we were not informed through any legal notice that any writ petition is laying pending at any court of Justice. Yesterday, I was informed by one of my friend that a FIR has been lodged against me and my church members and applicant of the FIR intent to get us arrested by Police on the day when we will be going to celebrate our religious festival called Easter.

Respected sir, I am a Law abiding citizen and being a Pastor I cannot afford to face such allegations in shape of fake applications, fabricated Medical reports and writ petitions for my character assassination. Therefore, you are requested to conduct a transparent inquiry on merit to probe the facts. I shall be highly thankful to you.
Applicant
Pastor Shahid Masih

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