Pakistani province demolishes Catholic church amid protests

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Construction workers demolish St. Joseph’s Church in Karachi, Pakistan on August 24. The Save Karachi movement confirmed the demolition on Twitter. (CNS / Twitter screenshot))

By the Catholic Information Service

KARACHI, Pakistan – A Catholic church serving more than 300 Christian families in Pakistan’s commercial capital, Karachi, was demolished on August 24 despite resistance from a civil society group and warnings from human rights experts in the area. ‘UN.

The Save Karachi movement, a group of lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists and minority activists, confirmed the demolition of St. Joseph’s Church on its Twitter account. It was part of a larger demolition plan to prevent flooding, government officials said.

Ucanews.com reported that the Save Karachi movement said the Sindh provincial government’s anti-encroachment team destroyed the building, despite protests from the Christian community.

“This is how we treat our minorities. This is how we destroy what they built, their church…. Look and be ashamed, Pakistan! government of Sindh, you will have to pay, ”said Abira Ashfaq, member of the Save Karachi movement, sharing a video of the demolition.

Mustafa Mehran, a lawyer, said two nearby churches had already been demolished and this was the last one left for the huge Christian population.

A day earlier, the Save Karachi movement said it had succeeded in stopping the demolition of the church.

“Thank you for participating in the #SaveStJosephChurch demolition campaign,” he said in a statement. “Due to our collective resistance, the church has not been demolished today. But residents fear it will be demolished in the coming days as soon as it loses its appeal on social media. “

Local officials said the demolition was started after a court order to clear encroachments near two narrow streams running through Karachi, known locally as Gujjar nullah and Orangi nullah, following the 2019 flash floods.

Anti-encroachment action along Gujjar nullah, a sewage stream, could affect up to 12,000 homes housing 96,000 people, according to UN experts. According to available data, more than 66,500 people have already been affected, with 4,900 houses demolished in Gujjar nullah and 1,700 in Orangi nullah.

In June, UN human rights experts called on Pakistan to stop deporting nearly 100,000 people living along the waterways.

According to a statement from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the anti-encroachment campaign by the city authorities was carried out “without adequate consultation with the residents concerned, without a resettlement plan and without disparate and insufficient compensation for displaced people “.

“The legal basis for this mass displacement and the remedies available to those affected are not clear. What is clear is the horrific effect on the displaced population, putting many poor families on the streets amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ”UN experts said.

UN experts urged Pakistan, which is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to ensure that its policies and practices fully comply with international human rights standards governing resettlement , evictions and internal displacement.


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