A Pakistani Muslim man has been arrested after desecrating a cross on top of a church building in Lahore.
Muhammad Bilal climbed the roof of One in Christ Church in Green Town, a Muslim-majority district of Lahore at 10am on 16 March.
He initially attempted to break a concrete cross on the roof 12 metres from the ground. He then proceeded to sit on the cross and chant “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest) for half an hour. The phrase is a traditional Islamic affirmation, and is often used by jihadists when they attack.
When a crowd assembled and the police had been notified of the disturbance, Bilal jumped down from the cross and was caught by locals gathered in the street below. He was arrested and questioned but released shortly afterwards.
However, following a request by local Christians, Bilal was rearrested on 17 March under section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, concerning hurting religious feelings.
Church leaders have urged the Christian community to remain calm. One in Christ Church, whose congregation comprises some 400 members, was built on the site in 1985.
Samson Salamat, Christian spokesman and chairman of human rights group Rwadari Tehreek, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to address the increasing hostility towards minorities in Pakistan. “One could imagine the violent reaction and level of destruction if a non-Muslim was behind such an act,” he speculated.
On 14 February, also in Lahore, a mob of more than 150 Muslims attacked and killed a Christian shopkeeper, Pervez Masih, following a dispute the previous evening.