Pakistan: Christians protest plan to demolish four churches

Four churches are set to be torn down to make way for a train line in Lahore, Pakistan, plans which campaigners say "belittle Christians".

Pakistani Christians protested for greater protection after suicide bomb attacks on two churches in Lahore in March 2015.Reuters

Christians protested in front of the Lahore High Court on May 3, insisting that they would not allow their places of worship to be destroyed.

They chanted slogans including "we don't give an inch of our holy places" and "we want our rights".

Four churches in Lahore will be affected - Cathedral Church, Naulakha Church, St Andrew's Church and Bohar Wala Church.

"There is no respite for them and one problem after the other seems to follow Pakistani Christians," said Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK.

On Easter Sunday a suicide bombing in a Lahore park killed 72 people. It was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since the massacre of 134 children at a military school in Peshawar in December 2014.

"The Christians who are still in mourning after the Easter Sunday attack and are still trying to deal with that trauma, are now faced with the issue of the demolition of their four historic churches in Lahore... the province where Christians suffer most," Saeed said.

"These churches were built pre-Pakistan and these all churches are located at very expensive and prime locations which politicians and Islamists are jealous of. They cannot stand that Christians have such prime property and ... so try to use any excuse to grab the land and belittle Christians."

Saeed criticised what many Pakistani Christians see as the failure of the government to protect religious minorities.

"The Government shouldn't play with Christians' religious feelings and should avoid further aggrieving pressurizing the Christian minority of Pakistan," he said.

A new report released on Monday by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that the Pakistani government last year "continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations".

USCIRF has recommended Pakistan be designated a 'country of particular concern' by the US since 2002 and its new report is damning about Pakistan's failures. "For years, the Pakistani government has failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence," it said.

"Pakistani authorities also have failed to consistently bring perpetrators to justice or take action against societal actors who incite violence."