Religious tension in Vehari after mob removes cross from church

    Religious tension has been reported from a village in Vehari district in South Punjab after a mob removed the cross from a newly-constructed church on Aug 29.

    According to reports, Christians in Tibba Sultanpura built a church on self-help basis, but on the day of its inaugural, a mob comprising local Muslims and clerics from a madrassa reached the spot and forced them to take the cross off. They also reportedly prevented the Christians from attending the inauguration ceremony.

    According to reports, Pastor Rafqat Yaqoob of the Church of Nazrene asked the clerics to discuss the matter later in the afternoon, but the mob continued to insist on the removal of the cross, wanting the church to look like an ordinary building.

    Pastor Yaqoob eventually called the police. The inspector at the police station told the Christians they had not informed him of the church’s construction earlier and suggested they remove the cross from the church for the time being, and they could try and reach a resolution later.

    Contrary to the police account, reports state that Pastor Yaqoob had informed the neighbors and local authorities of the church’s construction.

    The land for the church was bought by the 80-member congregation’s own contribution from a brick kiln owner Mahar Yaseen whose wife likes the Christian people, while the Church of Nazreen supported the construction of the church. Christian brick kiln workers had started constructing the church in July.

    A delegation from the Church of the Nazarene also met Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine to discuss the issue.

    “The church construction was illegal. I directed them to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC). I am also in contact with the local administration to control the law and order situation in the town,” the minister was quoted as saying in a media report.

    No FIR has been registered until now.

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