Pakistani authorities deny four churches will be destroyed for new Lahore train line
Pakistani authorities have denied claims four churches will be destroyed during the construction of a new train line, after Christians protested the plans.
It was previously reported that the churches would be demolished because they were in the path of the line. 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 and chanting slogans including "we don't give an inch of our holy places" and "we want our rights".
Four churches in Lahore are said to be affected – Cathedral Church, Naulakha Church, St Andrew's Church and Bohar Wala Church.
Responding to the protests, the Lahore Development Authority said that the churches will not be destroyed.
A spokesman admitted some church land would be used to house equipment during the construction process and to make room for stairs down to an underground station, but insisted that the churches themselves "will not be affected by the project", according to the Express.
However, Christians say that the situation has not changed, and the churches remain vulnerable to damage in the plans.
"For the time being, the situation is still the same," Nasir Saeed director of CLAAS-UK told Christian Today. "There is no respite for them and one problem after the other seems to follow Pakistani Christians."
He had previously said that the churches were "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."
While Saeed admitted that the churches will not be destroyed, he said that the proposed railway would disrupt worship and potentially cause significant damage to the church buildings.
The government currently plans to build the metro line just 16 feet under St Andrews Church.
"The church is 150 years old, and 16 feet is nothing. It will definitely still damage the church building. It is unlikely the church will survive it," Saeed said adding it was the government's responsibility to get an engineering survey but that it had failed to do so.
Similarly, St Paul's church will not be directly damaged but its land will be used for a metro station, which Nasir fears will disrupt worship.
The plans also involve laying tracks through the grounds of Bohar Wala Church.
"If you pass a train in front of the church, it will still be disturbing for the congregation," said Saeed.
"The Government shouldn't play with Christians' religious feelings and should avoid further aggrieving and pressurising the Christian minority of Pakistan."
There is a fear that freedom of worship may be challenged, especially with thousands of Muslim passengers using the trains during Christian prayer, the Express reported.
"The situation is not going to be resolved quickly," Saeed told Christian Today.