Lahore, May 27, 2024 – Concerns are escalating within the Catholic Church of Depalpur following a series of threatening incidents and attacks against Christian communities in Punjab. The latest in a string of distressing events occurred when radicals vandalized the foundation stone of St. John’s Catholic Church in Depalpur city, Okara.

Depalpur, situated 148 kilometres from Lahore, has been on edge since a warning was found on the church’s foundation stone. The message, clearly inscribed, read: “WARNING: Don’t trust the securities of Pakistan, Pakistan is an Islamic state, not a village of Europe.” This incident was reported in FIR No. 1114/24 at the Depalpur city police station on May 25, 2024.

Catechist Rizwan Augustin, the administrator of the Catholic Church, discovered the warning on the morning of May 24, 2024. He was accompanied by community members Ch. Bashir Masih, Yousaf Masih, Prem Masih, Younis Masih, Wajid Masih, Nazir Masih, and Prince Gull. The discovery has since instilled fear among local residents.

In a statement to Pak Christian News (PCN), Augustin assured that the situation remains under control with the police actively cooperating and providing security. “The St. John’s Catholic Church is the only church in this area, serving 45 Catholic homes and over 240 parishioners,” he said. “Police guards have been deployed, and local Muslim organizations and trade unions are also supporting us. So far, no further threats have emerged, and peace prevails.”

This incident follows closely on the heels of another on May 23, 2024, when a 21-year-old Muslim man reportedly insulted and attacked the New Jerusalem Church in Bhobatian Village, Raiwind Road, Lahore. The suspect threw stones at the church and damaged a vehicle belonging to a guest of Pastor Younis Gill. This incident led to FIR No. 3225/24 being registered at the Chong police station under section 295A.

Pastor Gill reported that when confronted, the assailant declared, “I want to finish these thieves.” This act of violence has deeply hurt the Christian community, and the pastor emphasized that legal action must be taken.

Adding to the concern, another FIR (No. 435/23) was registered on May 25, 2024, following an attack on a Christian family in Mujahid Colony, Sargodha. This series of events underlines a growing sense of vulnerability among Christians in Punjab.

The Catholic Church and the wider Christian community are calling for increased security and a swift legal response to these threats. The recent incidents highlight the need for communal harmony and protection of religious minorities in Pakistan.

The situation remains tense, with the community looking towards law enforcement agencies for reassurance and protection.