LAHORE, Pakistan (ChurchMilitant.com) - A muslim mob attacked a Catholic church in a village in Pakistan on Monday.
Police watched but did not intervene as the mob attacked the church grounds Monday, destroying a wall and front gate. The crowd of about 60 people came with a tractor and hammers, according to AsiaNews.
The village where this happened, Waqya Chak, has about 70 Christian families out of a population of 4,000 people.
The "church" that was attacked was not a building, properly speaking, but a fenced-off area with a small structure where a priest can offer Mass. It was built in 2007 on a plot of land donated by a local Catholic.
On Tuesday, police officials met with Muslim and Christian leaders and told the Christians their church was attacked the day before due to the lack of permits from the government.
But local Catholics say the mob attack was motivated by anti-Christian bigotry. Naseer Masih, a catechist, commented to AsiaNews, "Muslims do not want the church in the village because they have bad feelings towards Christians."
Local officials claim the church was illegal. But Masih claims it was illegal to try to destroy the church.
"The demolition of church property is against the law," he said. "Among the other things, we had no warning from the police before the accident. The Muslims carried out the destruction and the policemen did nothing against them. This means that they are on their side."
He also claimed, "We have prepared all the documents and we will appeal to the district, so that we can finally build the church and that it is registered by the government."
"Muslims do what they can against us, and the police conspire with them," he remarked. "We hope that the bishop and the priests will support us in presenting the documents."
Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim nation. Muslims account for approximately 97% of the country's population.
There are blasphemy laws on the books in Pakistan that make mocking Islam punishable by death. Numerous Christians and other non-Muslims have faced charges of blasphemy.
Even for those acquited of blasphemy charges, there is still the risk of an extrajudicial killing by Islamic hardliners.
For instance, when Pakistani Catholic mother Aasiya ("Asia") Noreen Bibi was acquited of blasphemy by Pakistan's Supreme Court, massive protests and riots broke out in many of the country's major cities.
In 2009, Bibi was getting water from a well when a Muslim woman declared that both the water and the vessels used to obtain it were now "haram," an Islamic term for things deemed religiously "forbidden" or "unclean." The woman shouted to other Muslim women working in the fields that Bibi, being a Christian, had made the water and vessels unclean for Muslims.
The Muslim women gathered, bitter arguments ensued and the women kept pressuring Bibi to convert to Islam. The Christian woman sealed her fate when she shot back, "What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"
The Muslim women became enraged, and Bibi fled amid shouting and spitting. A Muslim mob violently harassed her a few days later, and local police took the woman to jail, covered in blood. After a number of years in prison, Asia was finally released on the order of Pakistan's Supreme Court, and eventually flown to safety in Canada.
In 2011, the governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his bodyguard after he tried to seek clemency for Bibi, who lived in the province. The governor's bodyguard, in turn, was executed for murder.