In an alarming development, the Presbyterian Church located in Lahore’s densely populated Gulberg area, specifically in Makkah Colony, fell victim to a deliberate act of arson during its annual renovation. The church administration, in a proactive response, was concurrently sealing the walls to confine sounds of prayers and worship within the church premises. This decision was encouraged by a threat letter received from an alleged radical group, objecting strongly to the use of loudspeakers during religious services, citing disturbance caused by the voices of worship.
Recounting the incident, Priest Rev. Samuel Massey disclosed that amid ongoing Christmas season preparations, the church was undergoing renovation, having recently completed whitewashing and furniture refurbishment. Oversight of the renovation work was delegated to a Church elder. Around 10 am, Rev Massey received distressing news that the church was on fire, and the attackers had also vandalized the benches.
In a quick response to the call, Rev. Massey arrived at the scene within 30 minutes, finding congregants gathered in concern. Simultaneously, the police were retrieving CCTV footage for investigative purposes. Inside, the aftermath was grim, with the Holy Altar, Cupboard holding Holy Bibles and Books, Dice, and carpets reduced to ashes.
The fire in the Church also melted the air conditioners, and the attackers had ruthlessly dismantled the church benches. The attack has given substantial financial losses to the church.
Providing context to the threats, Rev explained that two weeks prior, a radical group’s threat letter was discovered outside the church gate by a Church elder. The letter explicitly warned of severe consequences if the church did not cease the use of sound systems during Sunday and Friday worship services. Notably, this letter made a clear reference to another threat received by the church administration two years ago, reiterating, “Two years ago, you were told to stop using the sound system, but you have not complied. Be aware that this may lead to severe consequences.
In response to the inquiry, he told, “Instead of filing complaints with the police regarding the threatening letters, we opted for a proactive approach by soundproofing the church. Additionally, we discontinued our Friday prayer services in light of these threats for safety considerations. Our aim was to avert potential conflicts with radical groups, choosing a path that minimizes tension and enables the continuation of our church services in the area safely,” he added.
Rev. Samuel also mentioned that they have filed a complaint against the unknown perpetrators with the police, and the case is currently under investigation. With unwavering determination, he told
“I have formed a committee of Church elders who will oversee and make decisions with collective wisdom on all matters related to this attack on our church.” he stated
Human Rights Defender Jansen Joseph, while commenting on the incident, characterized it as a tragic attack occurring just before the Christmas month on the church. Acknowledging the significant contributions of the Christian community to the progress and development of the country across various sectors, he emphasized that this hardworking community deserves a sense of safety in their worship and residential places, and the state must ensure that.
Joseph also urged Church leaders to actively coordinate with authorities to implement special security measures in the upcoming Christmas season for churches throughout the country to guarantee safety during special festive masses.
Furthermore, he appealed to local religious, political, and social leaders to support the burnt Presbyterian Church in Lahore for its quick renovation and infrastructural development.
Rev. Amjad Naimat of Presbyterian Church Lahore, strongly condemning the attack on the church, urged the authorities to speedily arrest the Church attackers and must ensure, they are punished in accordance with the law of the land.
Reverend Naimat, also emphasized that Pakistan is a peaceful country, and for the past seven decades, religious minorities have enjoyed religious freedom, practicing their rituals with full spirit and zeal.
He stressed upon the importance of denouncing negative narratives, highlighting that the majority of religious minorities live safely in the homeland.