South Asia

Pakistan Christians shot trying to reclaim their stolen homes

Photo credit: Asia News

Two Pakistani Christians were shot and wounded in the Punjab village of Sankhatra on 17 May 2018, as armed local Muslims prevented a group of Christians from reclaiming their stolen homes.

The Christian community from Sankhatra were driven out of their homes in March, in a land dispute with a local Muslim politician. On Thursday 17 May, a Christian man who attempted to return to his home was attacked by assailants armed with sticks.

Christians from the evicted community gathered in the village to protest against the attacks, at which point they were fired upon. One 36-year-old man and a 28-year-old mother of two suffered gunshot wounds to their legs. Police are investigating the shootings as attempted murder.

In 2017, a 500-strong mob destroyed the Christian community’s mud houses, but the intervention of a Christian politician enabled them to return. On 5 March 2018, they were again driven out, making 50 villagers (among them 27 children) homeless. Most of the families work in brick-kilns.

A church pastor told journalists that the Christian community was built on government land, prior to the partition of India in 1947. In 1981, a local Muslim landowner attempted to purchase the land at auction, but the sale was cancelled. His son, a politician in the Pakistan Muslim League party, is now claiming ownership of the land, which is situated next to a church.