Pakistani Christians Forced From Homes

Used as Shelters for Earthquake Victims

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, DEC. 2, 2005 ( Christians are being expelled from their homes in Pakistan to make room for victims of the earthquake that hit Kashmir and the northwestern region of the country in early October.

Reports from Catholic leaders spearheading the relief work following the earthquake say that hundreds or even thousands of people near Joharabad, close to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, are being made homeless, with no prospect of alternative accommodation being found.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said he feared that the incident of forced ejections he had uncovered was just one of many taking place across the region.

The bishop continued: «In one district near Joharabad, all the people are being thrown out — all of them are Christians. We are the most vulnerable people, we are very poor and we are easy targets.»

He said the ejections were all the more insulting to the Christian community because the government had plenty of land of its own on which to house the displaced Kashmiri people.

But, according to the bishop, the authorities preferred housing the refugees in Christian homes because it would save them the costly and time-consuming task of erecting shelters on alternative sites.


Bishop Lobo said he was planning to intervene before the government started «picking» on other Christian communities.

He added that he was drawing up a team of legal experts to challenge the decision in the courts: «If we need to, we will try to get hold of a senior minister.»

Catholics in Pakistan are widely expected to interpret the incident in the Joharabad area as a slap in the face after the Church mounted a huge relief operation to help the victims of the quake, and specifically set out to help people regardless of their religious and social background.

With key funding from Catholic organizations worldwide, Bishop Lobo himself provided vital aid including food, blankets and tents.

He also sent a team of expert volunteers to trace youngsters and other vulnerable people most at risk as the winter approaches and temperatures drop to as low as 5 degrees Farenheit (-15 degrees Celsius).

Bishop Lobo said the forced ejections were symptomatic of a culture of disrespect and abuse suffered by Christians across Pakistan.

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