Persecuted by the persecuted! No hope for Pakistani Christians

BPCA travelled to visit beleaguered Christians in Chenab Nagar after surprising persecution via the Ahmadi community living there. 

In a rare case of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan behaving like mainstream Muslims towards Christians, BPCA hoped to intervene. A dispute began earlier
this month when the Ahmadi community seized half of a Christian graveyard. Apparently on 6th and 7th June an unauthorised crane arrived and started
to dig on the land of the Christian graveyard which is 8 Kanal (1 acre) in size.  The digging resulted in a number of headstones being placed
on fresh graves, though Christians do not believe that any real corpses have been buried in them.

Questionable introduction of new Ahmadi graves at Christian graveyard.

Disturbingly when Christian activists protested the Ahmadi community proceeded to fire Christians working in 10 of their health and education centres
causing over 500 Christians to join the ranks of the unemployed. To makes matters worse, when a complaint was raised during a panchayat (tribal meeting)
between the local leaders of both communities, the poor Christians were forced to accept a compromise.  In a meeting presided over by the local
Police they were forced to agree to split the land ownership with the Ahmadi community, due to a lack of the correct legal papers for the land (a common
concern in Pakistan). It is alleged that local Police were paid a bribe to guide the meeting in the direction of the compromise and that during the
meeting Ahmadi leaders were both aggressive and abusive towards the Christian leaders.

Christians in Chenab feel let down by the Ahmadi community who they have always integrated well with and have supported during protests against discrimination
and persecution.

Pastor Asghar of the local Salvation Army Church, said:

“We have been let down by the local Ahmadi community who we have always had a great affinity with.  It seems to me that Christians are being persecuted by everyone. We are by far the weakest community in Pakistan and even our dead are being persecuted. Our enemies think we are powerless and maybe on this earth, in Pakistan we are.  However our God is great and mighty and one day he will judge the treatment of his children.  ” 

Manzoor Masih, President of the church committee, said:

“We have tried our best to live in harmony with the local Ahmadi community who are also persecuted.  We have collaborated with them on their protest and spoken up for them when they are persecuted or discriminated.  However, this recent usurping of our land only serves to stoke up religious tensions and already local Sunni Muslims are suggesting harsher action.  We of course will not do that we are peaceful people by nature and do not want to escalate the situation.  However, we have been hurt and feel a deep sense of betrayal.”

He added:

“By making Christians redundant Ahmadi leaders have illustrated their is no measure they would not take to get their own way.  This is an extremely
demoralizing action that has hurt our families who already struggle to make ends meet.  A return to work has been agreed following our agreement
and I hope that this matter is now resolved as promised.”

BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry said:

‘In general, there are good relations between Ahmadis and Christians, and the BPCA works closely with them in Thailand and in the UK, for instance.”

“I was very disappointed to hear this news, and immediately sent officers out there to find out more about what happened to see if there is anything we can do to help. Christians in Pakistan have consistently stood up for the rights of the badly oppressed Ahmadi community, so this is something of a slap in the face. We have heard of one incident in Germany a while back where Ahmadis behaved more like Islamicists over a graveyard, but hoped that was just an aberration. Graveyards are sacred places that are invested into emotionally by religious communities considering the desecration of Ahmadi and Christian graveyards in Pakistan, I expected better morality from our Ahmadi brothers.”

The Ahmadis, also known as Ahmaddiya, or Qadiani, are a genuinely peaceful sect of Islam, with the slogan ‘Love toward all, hatred for none’.

However, they are regarded as a heretical cult by most mainstream Muslims and are severely discriminated against in Pakistan.

Ahmadis see their founder and his successors as the Messiah-figure promised in all religions.

Recently one of their members in Glasgow was murdered by an Islamicist from Bradford for daring to wish Christians ‘Happy Easter.

Their main HQ from 1948 is a Punjab town now officially called Chenab Nagar (also known as Rabwa) about halfway between Sarghoda and Faisalabad, although
persecution has now forced the senior leadership and HQ function to move to London.

About 97% of the population there is Ahmadi, and the rest are either Christian (about 3000) or Sunni Muslim.

Apparently the Sunni Muslim community was deliberately planted there to ‘keep an eye’ on Ahmadi activity, and reportedly harass the community, most
recently by going to court to try and stop a government subsidized market from being held there during Ramadan on the grounds that it is ‘un-Islamic’.  

Local Christians have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Ahmadi community and no doubt one the dust settles will continue to do so.  But this
recent betrayal has left a sour taste in the mouth of local Christians and huge disappointment in the global Pak-Christian diaspora.

The local Salvation Army where celebrating the silver Jubilee celebrations at the time of the visit of our officer. They have asked for help with securing funding for a perimeter wall on the now smaller Christian graveyard to prevent similar dispute in the future.  They also require legal assistance in making sure the land is properly registered under their ownership.  The legal work will cost £400 and the cost of a wall will be in the region of £2500 due to the size of the land.  We will help as far as we can via the donations received prioritizing land registry.  If you would like to contribute to this appeal please (click here)   

Manzoor Masih (President) and Yousaf Gill (Secretary) of Church committee

Choir participants at Silver Jubilee celebration with their teachers

confirming inauguration of church 25 years ago.

Sign at pastors house on grounds.

Packed attendance at silver jubilee celebration – church greatly encouraged by BPCA offer of help.

Salvation Army pastors prayed for the BPCA.

Pakistani police officer sits down while protecting church. This is an officer more alert then most sadly.

25 anniversary celebrations.