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A group of Christians in Pakistan have been attacked outside their church.
According to World Watch Monitor, five members of a family in the northeast of the country were beaten on 4th March as they helped build a boundary wall around their church.
The pastor of the Pakistan Gospel Assemblies church in Yousufwala village, on the outskirts of the Punjabi city of Sahiwal, told the news source that around 20 armed men violently attacked the church members as they built the wall ahead of the Sunday morning service.
"Our church elder, George Masih, who is 70, was overseeing masons and labourers who were constructing the wall," said the pastor, who cannot be named for security reasons.
"We were praying [inside the church] when we heard shouting and yelling, and, when we rushed outside, we saw about 20 men, armed with clubs and axes, [who] were beating Masih and others."
While authorities have not confirmed who the suspects are, the pastor said he believes the men were linked to a local landlord.
He added that although the land was originally specified for communal purposes, he got permission to build the church on the land three years ago.
"That legal agreement is documented and we have a copy of it," he told World Watch Monitor, adding that the agreement included church-related infrastructure such as a boundary wall.
Masih's 22-year-old son Babar said he was wounded with an axe during the attack.
"The attackers told us to stop building the wall as the land belonged to them. But we told them that this belongs to the church. At this, they descended into fighting with us. Then our women tried to intervene but they too were beaten and their clothes were torn," he said.
The pastor said he had asked local police to provide security for the church, but they had not agreed.
According to Sami Minhas, chairman of the Muthida (United) Christian Movement in Sahiwal, local police have advised the church members not to press charges on the alleged attackers "because doing so would create further tensions between local Muslims and Christians, the latter of whom are poor and few in number".
"[Christians] are also told that if they would seek filing of blasphemy charges against the perpetrators, then blasphemy cases would be filed against them as well, as there had been requests [to do so] from local mosques," Minhas added.
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