Islamabad [Pakistan], May 5 (ANI): Fourteen armed men attacked a Christian school in Sheikhupura city in Pakistan’s Punjab province and demanded extortion money from the principal of the school as well as issued death threats if the school authorities failed to make payment.
The incident took place on April 29 at Global Passion School. School Principal Simon Peter Kaleem said that the armed men stormed the school, tortured staff and damaged their vehicles. The school, managed by Presbyterians, has been providing free education and food to Christian students from brick kiln families since 2018, reported Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA news).
The attackers hurled chairs at the children while they were praying in the hall at 11.30 am, according to the school Principal.
“They attacked the security guard and demanded 100,000 rupees (USD 536) in extortion money every month, threatening that if their demand was not met they would forcibly stop Christian worship and the school’s operations,” Kaleem said in a first information report to local police.
“They misbehaved with the female staff and issued death threats if we failed to make payment in two days. They also damaged staff cars and motorcycles parked in the building, causing an estimated total loss of 350,000 rupees.”
Kaleem, who was also tortured, was due to hold a press conference with Sheikhupura district police and political leaders at the school on May 2, reported UCA news.
“Many of our religious and political leaders, while visiting other countries, say that minorities and Christians are safe in Pakistan. After what happened to us today, I will never say that. Our security guard can’t even walk now. Our community is threatened to keep silent,” Kaleem said in a video posted on social media.
“A few among the neighbouring Muslim community have always tried to stop us from praying. They literally demanded stopping the noise and ‘kanjar khana’ (brothel). We want to be treated equally. Please pray for us.”
Last week’s assault is the third attack on a church institution in Punjab province this year, reported UCA news.
In March, police in Lahore arrested a Muslim youth who climbed onto the rooftop of One in Christ Church and sat on the cement cross chanting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great) while trying to pull it down.
In January, police charged four people with blasphemy for ransacking St. Camillus Church in a village in Okara district in Punjab province.
According to parishioners, the raiders tied up the Christian watchman and threw pictures of the Holy Family, Eucharist, Bibles and the Ark of the Covenant on the floor.
The Christian community, which constitutes roughly 1.6 per cent of the population of Pakistan, suffers from both racism and religious intolerance.
Christians continue to suffer targeted violence and other abuses, including land-grabbing in rural areas, abductions and forced conversion, and the vandalization of homes and churches. (ANI)