2/9/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two churches in Lahore, Pakistan, were raided by police during their Sunday services. According to local Christians, the police desecrated the churches, harassed the Christians worshiping there, arrested both churches’ pastors, and damaged both churches’ sound systems.
The police raid took place February 8 at The Light of the City Church and The Pillars of Truth Assemblies during their Sunday services in Lahore, Pakistan. Police registered FIR numbers 251/15 and 252/15 against the leaders of the respective churches alleging that the churches were misusing their loudspeakers as a pretext for the raids.
Pastor Imran Maqbool, who spent the night in jail, told ICC, “The authorities had to come up with an explanation for the raids. Four microphones, two sets of speakers, a music mixer, a harmonium, and other electric accessories were damaged and later taken away by the police.“
According to one eyewitness, “The police officials took possession of the sound systems, made hate speeches against Christians using amplifiers, and later took all the electric stuff away to the police station.“
“All the worshipers were almost held hostage by the police,” Salik Morris, a church member, said. “The women and children started praying, but stopped when they were threatened by the Station House Officer. The officer ordered the congregation not to come to the church for prayers anymore.“
Talking with ICC, Pastor Javaid Austin, head pastor of The Light of the City Church, said, “The local police have violated our right to religious freedom. They entered into the church forcefully, as attackers, and misbehaved with the pastoral team and the worshipers.“
“There were around 200 worshipers in both churches,” Azeem Javaid, a prayer leader, told ICC. Azeem Javaid spent the night in police custody; however, “I am more energetic for my pastoral work,” he told ICC. “The police, led by Imran Qureshi, the local Station House Officer, entered into the church forcefully with arms bared,” Azeem Javiad said. “They harassed the women and children. The loud speakers were not even in use due to a power cut.“
“It was an act of terrorism and an attack on peaceful worshipers which should be condemned by all rights groups,” Tasneem Akhtar, another eyewitness, said. “We will continue praying and worshiping in the same church in the same spirit,” Tasneem Akhtar continued. “The Station House Officer should be arrested for his criminal act and he must come up with an apology for this!“
Local church leaders have called for a consultation meeting and will soon finalize a plan of action to respond to the incidents that took place at both The Light of the City Church and The Pillars of Truth Assemblies over the weekend.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “The Christian community of Pakistan continues to be treated like an unwanted religious minority in Pakistan. Yesterday, the sound systems of two churches in Lahore were used as a pretext by local police to raid, harass, and threaten two Christian communities. This is just another example of how Christians in Pakistan are persecuted. More must be done by Pakistan to secure the rights of Christians, who have played a crucial role in the country’s history. Unless positive steps are made in this direction, the security of Pakistani Christians and their places of worship will continue to deteriorate.“