Holy wars: Pastor and locals fight over church

Protest was staged outside the Railway Christian Colony Church as Pastor Yousuf blocked the entrance for worshippers.


Sarfaraz Memon July 16, 2011

SUKKUR:


The alleged illegal occupation of the Railway Christian Colony Church has created a rift between the pastor and the local Christian community.


Reportedly, the pastor, who has led the Christ Church on Shikarpur Road for 10 years, forcibly occupied the Railway Christian Colony Church. “Pastor Yousuf has nothing to do with our church,” said a member from the community, adding “The Christ Church and Railway Colony Church were registered in his name through unfair means. We do not know why he has closed our church.” The local community is upset as they cannot attend the church at all. Patras Maseeh, a local resident, is worried about the state of affairs. “My daughter is getting married today, how will the wedding take place if the church is closed?” He added that even if the church was open he would not want Pastor Yousuf to be present.

According to Tony, who runs the Christian Social Uplift Organisation, Pastor Luca was originally based in Larkana and joined the Christ Church in 2000. “I established the church with some help from my father-in-law, Pastor Luca, who ran things till he passed away. After him, my brother-in-law, Pastor Benjiman, took over and ran the church quite well,” he said at a protest staged outside the Railway Colony Church on Friday.

Reportedly, Tony asked his brother-in-law to step down as Pastor of the Christ Church and told Yousuf to take over. “After four years of working with the church, Pastor Yousuf started politicising the church,” Tony said. “As a pastor it was his duty to bring people together, instead he created hate.”

According to Tony, Pastor Yousuf’s negative attitude harmed the sanctity of the church and “we decided to address the matter in a Panchayat.” In 2008 we held a Panchayat chaired by Chaudhry Rasheed Bhatti, who ordered the pastor to leave the city within six months,” he said. “Although Pastor Yousuf accepted the verdict and promised to do so, he did not. He went to the local DCO instead.”

As the situation seemed to escalate, a meeting was organised at the Circuit House and was attended by Father Yaqoob Gill, Pastor Muneer, Pastor Warris, Pastor Aqeel and the DDO Revenue Jacobabad Munawwar Ali Mithiyani. “Those present at the meeting decided to give Pastor Yousuf another chance on the condition that he would not use the church for personal gains,” Tony said.  “They added that if he did not obey their verdict, he would be fined Rs500,000 and would have to leave the church.” According to Tony, despite involving senior church members, the pastor did not comply. “He was supposed to change himself, instead he changed the name of the church from the Christ Church to the Christ Baptist Church,” he said.

The other side of the coin

Pastor Yousuf denied all allegations and claimed that the church was the house of God and nobody could occupy it with force. “As a pastor, I am performing my duties well and the people are happy so why should I leave?” he asked. “My wife and I did not fight on church premises. It is a personal matter which I do not wish to discuss.”

Father Yaqoob Gill from the Saint Mary’s Church Sukkur however, disagreed with the pastor and claimed that Pastor Yousuf had become too controversial. “We gave him a chance and he failed,” he said. “The church belongs to God and no one else. The priests, pastors and fathers are supposed to bring people together - Pastor Yousuf did the opposite and created hate amongst the community.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2011.

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