Easter Eve Tragedy: Presbyterian Church in Gujar Khan Ravaged by Fire

The Presbyterian Church in Gujar Khan was ravaged by a disastrous fire in the early hours of March 30, 2024, sending the Christian community into a state of profound shock and mourning. The incident occurred just before Easter, a time of deep spiritual significance for Christians globally.

Rev. Adeem Alphonse, the church's pastor, informed Pak Christian News (PCN) about the circumstances leading up to the tragic event. He described ongoing disputes with the owner of an adjacent plaza under construction. Tensions had risen after the church erected temporary barriers in the street for security reasons, which resulted in a clash with the plaza owner. Although the police initially intervened to defuse the situation, matters escalated tragically overnight.

Despite swift responses from emergency services, the church suffered extensive damage, with its contents, including essential religious items, destroyed. As of now, a formal First Information Report (FIR) regarding the incident is yet to be filed, leaving the investigation at a preliminary stage.

Rev. Alphonse detailed an altercation involving Sheikh Ahmed, the plaza owner. After Good Friday services, Ahmed forcefully removed security curtain walls from the church's entrance, issuing threats in full view of the local police. This action led to heightened fears among the congregation.

The church's historical significance adds a layer of complexity to the incident. Initially a Hindu temple pre-partition, it was designated for Christian worship post-1947. Sheikh Ahmed's commercial interests adjacent to the church and his alleged ambition to acquire the church property have come under scrutiny.

The estimated loss from the fire is substantial, running into hundreds of thousands of rupees, impacting not only physical assets but also the community's morale.

Elder Javed from the church revealed that forensic investigators have collected evidence to ascertain the cause of the fire, with a report expected soon.

Naveed Gill, Chairman of the Glory of God Foundation Pakistan, criticized the police's reluctance to register an FIR naming Sheikh Ahmed. His visit to the church noted existing tensions exacerbated by the plaza construction. The dispute with Ahmed culminated post-Good Friday prayers, with the police failing to intervene during the removal of the street barricades, raising concerns about the authorities' response.

This incident has deeply affected the Christian community in Gujar Khan and resonates with Christians around the world. They seek justice and a thorough investigation into the fire's origins, hoping for closure and measures to prevent such tragedies in the future.