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Pastors arrested after House Churches banned in largest city of Southern Punjab

Bahawalpur: October 9, 2017. (PCP) Church leaders in the city of Bahawalpur are urging Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister government of Pakistan to uphold the constitution after the administration imposed restrictions on Christian worship in their city. Please sign and circulate our petition to support their efforts.

Authorities have ordered the closure of house churches in Bahawalpur after Muslims complained that they were disturbed by Christian prayers. Some Christians across hold their regular services in the houses of pastors and other members until they are able to afford a proper church building. However, when they gather at these locations for prayer the Punjabi police force are now arresting their pastors.

Several Pastors have been arrested under this targeted campaign against house churches instigated by the district council and enforced by Bahawalpur police, these men include: Rev Arslan-ul-Haq, Rev Munir Masih (Gospel of Salvation), Rev Arshd Baghicha (Kings Jesus Pentecostal church), Rev Javad Veru (Pentecostal church), Rev Mubashir Maqsood ( United Presbysterian Church Pakistan), Rev Patress Nawab Gill, Rev Shoukat Masih and Rev Arshad Rehmat ( Gospel of Salvation)

There are only four church buildings in Bahawalpur; which is the largest city in Southern Punjab. These historic church buildings of The Catholic Church of Pakistan and The Church of Pakistan were built in the city of Bahawalpur prior to the 1947 independence of Pakistan and in 1971.

Permits to build new church buildings in the area are not granted if the site is within 200 meters from any mosque or 100 metres away from a Muslim residential home.

Local pastors in Bahawalpur want to Government of Pakistan take action against on those authorities who are banning house churches and want BPCA help them in this mission because they are unable to build proper buildings for churches to accommodate public worship.

Local churches are now not allowed to use a PA system during services, in addition to being unnecessarily restrictive; this action impedes the communication of the message from the pulpit to those who have come to hear it, as church congregations on average have very large attendances on any given Sunday - hence amplification would be required. It is estimated that more than 1000 Christian families live in the city of Bhawalpur.

In addition to these logistical restrictions Church services have to be rescheduled, as they are not permitted to conflict with Muslim prayers in Mosques in that locality.

Given the inspirational value of raising of a 140 foot cross in Karachi a project led by a Pakistani Christian businessman (click here), Bahawalpurs administration has also placed limits and special permits on the common practice of erecting of crosses on gates of new Church buildings. Which seems intended to be to make the church invisible in a process that ostensibly seeks to minimalize the presence of Christians to reduce offence to the primary Muslim citizens of the city.

Banning house church meetings for prayer in the city of Bahawalpur pulls the rug out from under religious freedom and guarantees provided to religious minorities in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, showing how basic rights are suppressed.

The original Constitution of Pakistan did not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. However, the amendments made during President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization led to the controversial Hudood Ordinance and Shariat Court. Later, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government tried to enforce a Shariat Bill, passed in May 1991. After the incident of 9/11 Pervez Musharraf's government took steps to curtail the religious intolerance of non-muslims but this has had little effect.

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