Christians record protest with US diplomat

October 06, 2009


Gojra violence victims throw relief goods towards the stage where the US Consulate Officer Principal Officer Carmella Conroy was sitting. —Online

TOBA TEK SINGH The Christians of Gojra refused on Monday to accept relief goods from Lahore US Consulate Principal Officer Carmella Conroy in protest against, what they say, police failure to arrest the people involved in the communal violence in Gojra on July 31 and Aug 1.

Shahbaz Hameed, whose family was burnt in the violence stemmed from an alleged desecration of the Holy Quran, was the first to receive aid from Ms Conroy at Catholic Church on Samundri Road in Gojra.

He, however, refused to receive the aid, saying Christians were not given justice and a cross-version case had been registered against them. He demanded action against the people nominated in the first information report. Amid anti-police chants, Shahbaz and others refused to accept the goods.
During the protest, those who were called to receive relief goods threw packages towards the stage where the US consulate officer was sitting. Security guards escorted her from the stage to a safer place. Ms Conroy was to distribute packages among 150 Christians.

A group of Christians also raised slogans against the US, saying its wrong policies had created problems for the Christians in Pakistan.

The rumpus divided the Christians into two groups one group, led by Fenaas Paul Randhawa and Samuel Qamar Sahutra, raised anti-US slogans; while another group led by father Shafiq raised slogans in favour of the US.

Earlier, addressing the gathering, Ms Conroy said the USAID had arranged relief goods for the Christians of Gojra and she had also brought a message of harmony and peace to them from the Americans.

She praised federal and provincial governments regarding the rehabilitation of affected people and also paid tributes to some ulema for their role in increasing harmony between the Muslims and Christians in Gojra.

Punjab Local Government Minister Sardar Dost Muhammad Khosa said the Gojra violence was a 'terror intrigue' to spoil Pakistan's image internationally but Muslim and Christian leaders had foiled the plot by creating peace in the city. He said the government was building houses for the affected and work would be complete by the month-end.

FAISALABAD Earlier, at a meeting at the Faisalabad commissioner office, Mr Khosa briefed the US diplomat about the rehabilitation work for the Gojra victims.

He said the government had arrested main culprits of the incident and would punish them. He said the Punjab government had made two committees, headed by Minorities Minister Kamran Michael and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, to improve harmony among Muslims and Christians and monitor rehabilitation activities in the city.

Relief activities programme head Haseeb Athar said modern facilities were being provided at Christian Colony and Chak Korian, the main localities affected by the violence.