The bishop and father of a Roman Catholic Church in Abbottabad have come under much criticism for what residents call ‘forcible evacuation’ by the priests.
The church on Mansehra Road has six apartments which have been occupied by seven families for over four decades.
“We were settled here by the Father of the Church in 1978 for a monthly rent of Rs150. Since then we have been looking after the quarters and the Church,” said Fayaz Masih. They claim they repaired the Church from their own money after the 2005 earthquake, which damaged the building. As a reward for their services and contribution, the then bishop exempted the monthly rent from all families.
However, the bishop of Rawalpindi and Islamabad Rufin Anthony sent a letter addressed to Father Akram Javed on June 17, 2003 asking him to get the houses vacated by the end of June as the property belongs to the church. The letter further stated: “The houses they will vacate will be utilised for the spiritual and social well-being of the Christian community.”
“There are widows and orphans living in the Church’s quarters but the father is bent on getting them displaced even though the building has enough space to accommodate the worshippers,” argued another resident Muqeet Fayaz.
Cantonment police station Additional SHO Manzoor Khan confirmed the news adding they have tried to speak to the father but he has been “avoiding” them.
Father Javed, however, told The Express Tribune that he had sent many notices requesting residents to evacuate. He said all occupants have houses in other parts of the city and were “forcibly” occupying the property.
He added the residents were creating problems for no reason as they are neither property owners nor do they have any right to keep living in the quarters once the bishop has asked them to vacate.
The church has a very small hall which cannot fit all the worshipers so they have decided to convert the residential area into a larger hall, explained Father Javed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2013.
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